WASHINGTON, D.C. – (August 23, 2022) – Today, AHIP’s Board of Directors released a new Statement of Commitment and a detailed advocacy vision to further improve access to mental health care and substance use disorder (SUD) treatment for every American. These commitments build on health insurance providers’ extensive history of improving access to effective, high-quality care and treatment choices, while offering new solutions for the public sector and private market partners to work together to overcome barriers that persist.
“The COVID-19 pandemic made very clear that mental health is everyone’s issue, whether people are struggling with anxiety or depression, have been diagnosed with a complex mental health condition, or are working to overcome substance use disorder,” said Matt Eyles, AHIP President and CEO. “With these commitments and roadmap, health insurance providers will advocate for solutions that are working to expand access, promote quality and value, promote parity, advance equity, and improve the experience for patients and their families.”
With today’s announcement, health insurance providers note that while good progress has been made, more needs to be done. The key is for everyone to work together to improve affordability, access, and results, including care professionals, federal and state policymakers, community organizations, health insurance providers, and other health leaders.
The AHIP Board of Directors Statement of Commitment includes the following priorities:
- Help patients navigate in a timely manner to the right setting and practitioner based on their needs for mental health or SUD support. This may include advocating for and implementing care models that better match patients across the continuum of care practitioners and settings based on their level of acuity. The continuum of care includes crisis intervention, inpatient or residential care, intensive outpatient, office-based, school-based, telehealth, or digital engagement. Health insurance providers can work with health care providers to help patients move across the continuum to achieve their optimal level of wellness.
- Integrate mental health/SUD support with physical health and primary care visits. Integrating mental health care into physical health care settings can help meet patients where they are and improve access to treatment. For example, primary care physicians, including pediatricians and family physicians, often have the first opportunity to identify and assist a patient who needs mental health care but may not feel equipped to diagnose or treat serious behavioral health conditions. Health insurance providers can be a key partner in providing education, tools, resources, and care coordination to help providers of physical health care offer their patients the support they need where they regularly seek care.
- Create innovative programs to expand system capacity and increase the number of mental health care practitioners available. Today, 130 million Americans live in places with less than one mental health care provider for every 30,000 people. Health care leaders across the public and private sectors must come together to advocate for effective solutions, and to collaborate to expand our health care system’s capacity and increase the number of mental health practitioners to meet and treat the growing need. When government resources are used to encourage people to enter the behavioral health field, we will advocate for requirements that those providers participate in health plan networks, particularly in public programs -- Medicare and Medicaid.
- Expand access to mental health care through telehealth, virtual visits, and other innovative uses of technologies that connect people to the mental health support they need. Use of these technologies should consider whether mental health and SUD support can be delivered safely and effectively through them, and what policies are needed to support that delivery. These policies should continue to protect patient privacy and security consistent with requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
- Continue to ensure that mental health/SUD treatment is covered - on par with physical health treatment in compliance with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA). Health insurance providers are committed to achieving mental health parity and will continue to collaborate with federal and state policymakers as they conduct the required reviews under the Consolidated Appropriations Act and advocate for process improvements.
- Advocate for the importance of addressing issues of equity and the impact of the social drivers of health. Mental health is strongly affected by the environments in which people live, work, play, and grow. We will advocate for policy solutions to improve access to mental health/SUD in all communities in a manner that is equitable and allows all people and families to thrive and achieve their best possible mental health.
- Improve quality and move toward value. Health insurance providers are working with mental health practitioners on tools and approaches to develop patient-centered and outcomes-based measures of quality for mental health services. This includes encouraging practitioners to use standardized tools for routine patient screening and identification of mental health/SUD issues. We are also encouraging value-based care models that align incentives to improve behavioral health quality and outcomes.
- Promote access to evidence-based SUD/opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment. Recognizing that SUD/OUDs continue to rise, health insurance providers have been working to analyze, better understand, and disseminate information about the health impacts of substance use and related risks, including tobacco use, alcohol abuse, and illicit use of pharmaceutical and other drugs. We will continue to work with patients, their families, and communities to promote effective treatment options for SUD and medications for OUD – including supporting patients in receiving treatment and recovery.
The AHIP Vision for Improved Mental Health Care Access for Every American is based on a comprehensive review of mental and SUD care access challenges facing patients and the current system. Today’s challenges call for proactive and innovative solutions that put patient needs and access first, and that are based on evidence-based care. An optimal system that meets people where they are, regardless of the type of coverage they have, should include:
- A better model to match patient needs with care they can access on a timely basis, including the right professionals and settings along patient health journeys.
- Improved use of measurement-based care and improved measures of quality.
- A concerted effort to reward providers who deliver better value by improving patient access and outcomes.
- A system that leverages telehealth and digital technology.
Read more about how health insurance providers are working to integrate mental health care into primary care settings, including pediatric care.
Read more about how health insurance providers are working to help young people who are struggling.
Read more about access to mental health care through employer-provided coverage, which covers approximately 180 million Americans.
Read more about AHIP’s Safe, Transparent Opioid Prescribing (STOP) initiative to promote patient safety and reduce risk of opioid misuse.
Read AHIP’s comments on the new clinical practice guidelines for safe opioid prescribing.
Read more about other health insurance provider actions to support mental health care.
AHIP is the national association whose members provide coverage for health care and related services to hundreds of millions of Americans every day. Through these offerings, we improve and protect the health and financial security of consumers, families, businesses, communities and the nation. We are committed to market-based solutions and public-private partnerships that improve affordability, value, access, and well-being for consumers. Visit www.ahip.org for more information.