“Ghost Networks” for Mental Health
This article was originally published by Mindsite News on March 31, 2022.
Senate finance committee goes to bat for mental health parity
The United States Senate Committee on Finance held its third hearing on mental health yesterday in a bipartisan push to make high-quality mental health care accessible to all Americans.
In the hearing, which focused on mental health parity, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore) made an impassioned call for expanded mental health coverage, declaring that more needed to be done to hold health insurance executives accountable.
“The parity law was supposed to be a game changer, but mental health patients have still spent the last 13 years all too often bogged down in insurance company foot dragging, red tape and piles of excuses,” said Wyden, who chairs the Senate Committee on Finance.
Wyden began by ticking off roadblocks to mental health care, including “arbitrary” limits on hospital stays, loopholes to deny coverage, stonewalling on paying claims, and what he called insurers’ “ghost networks” for mental health.
“Too many Americans are getting shoved by insurers into ‘ghost networks,” Wyden said at the hearing. “When you’re stuck in a ghost network, you can’t get a provider to take your insurance. The insurance company’s directory of providers is often wrong, even years out of date. Or insurance companies often pay so little for mental health services that patients get stuck with the entire bill. When families pay good money for insurance and wind up with a ghost network, you don’t feel like you’re getting parity, you feel like you’re getting ripped off.”
Senator Mike Crapo, R-ID, also stressed “the profound importance of ensuring all Americans have access to high-quality mental health care services.” Americans living in rural and frontier areas often face serious barriers in finding mental health care, he added in his prepared remarks.
Witnesses testifying for the need for expanded mental health services and parity included representatives from the U.S. Government Accountability Office; the Advancing Integrated Mental Health Solutions (AIMs) Center; the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute in Dallas, Texas; and the Commonwealth Fund.
The day before the hearing, the Senate Committee on Finance also released a 33-page report criticizing the “array of shortfalls” in mental health care and calling for federal action.
In the report, Wyden characterized the nation’s mental health crisis as an emergency: “The house is on fire, and the nation is short on firefighters equipped to put out the blaze.”
This issue is deeply personal for him, he adds. “For years, my brother struggled to access the mental health care he needed and our family struggled against the painful stigma that has surrounded mental illness for as long as I can remember. It is a tragedy that helping a loved one get care is still a challenge for millions of other families around the country.” (Find out more about the hearing here.)
The full article is available online here.