At the end of May, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy stunned healthcare advocates when he vetoed an important bill that would have required insurance companies to provide data about how much substance abuse coverage and related mental health care they are actually providing Connecticut residents.
The legislation was a product of a major study conducted the Connecticut General Assembly’s bi-partisan Program Review and Investigation Committee. While insurance companies already report some utilization data, the Committee’s investigation determined that companies were not providing the information necessary for policymakers to determine whether patients were getting the substance abuse treatment and mental health services that they need and deserve.
Considering that the cost of appropriate substance abuse treatment and mental health services is far cheaper and more effective than dealing with the resulting emergency room visits, potential suicide attempts, violence and incarceration that can result from inadequate treatment, the bill was extremely appropriate.
With strong support from Democrats and Republicans, the legislation passed the Program Review and Investigation Committee 11 – 0, the Insurance Committee 15 – 2, the Connecticut State Senate 35 – 0 and the Connecticut House of Representatives by a vote of 143 – 0.
But then, in an apparent gift to insurance executives, who have been extremely generous to Malloy’s political fundraising efforts, the Governor reversed course and vetoed the bill.
Now, according to House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, the Democratic-controlled legislature will not override any of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s vetoes, including the important substance abuse and mental health bill.
The General Assembly’s decision to simply give in and give up the fight to ensure a better and fairer health insurance system for Connecticut is a sad one.
As the CT Mirror reported at the time Malloy vetoed the bill,
“Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has vetoed a bill opposed by the insurance industry that would have required carriers to report information about the substance abuse treatment they have covered and their networks of mental health and substance abuse treatment providers.
Malloy said he supported the objective of the measure, which was intended to increase the amount of information available about substance abuse treatment and coverage, but was concerned that it could lead to inaccurate information being gathered.
Malloy took issue with that last requirement, saying in his veto message that it’s unusual for state law to require private entities to “report on activities to achieve public policy objectives,” and that he worried about the precedent it could set.
In defense of his veto, Governor Malloy actually said that he is opposed to requiring private entities to “report on activities to achieve public policy objectives.”
Malloy’s statement is absolutely absurd considering that private businesses that are engaged in public purposes MUST regularly “report on activities to achieve public policy objectives.” Just ask the electric companies, the water companies and all the other private entities that serve the public good.
Insurance companies that provide health insurance to Connecticut residents must be held accountable for their actions and the bill Malloy vetoed would have done exactly that.
As Jeffrey Walter, the president of the Rushford Center and an expert on substance abuse treatment, explained in his testimony in favor of the legislation,
“The legislation might not be necessary were it not for the fact that behavioral health is treated differently by the insurance industry than virtually any other health care specialty….care for psychiatric and substance use disorders [are] denied at a rate that far surpasses my other part of the health care system.”
The Connecticut Psychological Association added,
“The provisions…increase transparency related to coverage decisions and complaints, which will facilitate evaluation of the review process, including compliance with federal parity law, which requires equal treatment of medical and behavioral health providers and conditions, as well as network adequacy.”
And Connecticut’s State Health Care Advocate, Victoria Veltri, explained,
“Expanding the data that insurers report to the Insurance Department concerning member utilization of services for the treatment of substance use, co-occurring and mental health disorders will provide additional needed clarity to the issues concerning consumer access to treatment for these conditions.”
Malloy was wrong to veto this bill and the Connecticut General Assembly is failing to do its job by refusing to even consider overriding Malloy’s veto.
You can read more about the bill in this CT Mirror story: http://ctmirror.org/malloy-vetos-substance-abuse-treatment-bill-opposed-by-insurance-industry/?hvid=4ILvLG
Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto