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NC legislators advance new treatment to aid with depression

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NC legislators advance new treatment to aid with depression

Jun 12, 2024 | 8:00 am ET
By Clayton Henkel
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NC legislators advance new treatment to aid with depression
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House Bill 939 would make transcranial magnetic stimulation more available to those suffering with serious forms of depression. (Photo: Getty Images)

Members of the House Health Committee advanced legislation Tuesday that would require insurers offering a health benefit plan in North Carolina that provides coverage for transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to provide coverage for those procedures performed by any properly licensed healthcare provider or healthcare facility.

Representative Wayne Sasser (R-Montgomery) told members that the bill would allow primary care doctors to use TMS therapy to treat depression.

“As pharmacists, we use medication to treat depression. The reality is that only like 30% of people that take medications for depression are successful,” explained Sasser. “This particular treatment has a 62% success rate.”

Representative Wayne Sasser (R-Montgomery)
Representative Wayne Sasser (R-Montgomery) (Photo: NCGA video stream)

Sasser told the committee that eight percent of the American people have major depression, 27% of Americans have been diagnosed with depression, and 11% of the population currently is dealing with some form of depression.

With a shortage of licensed psychiatrists and therapists, Rep. Sasser said House Bill 939 is simply trying to make transcranial magnetic stimulation more available.

The National Institutes of Health describes transcranial magnetic stimulation as a non-invasive stimulation of brain tissue. A coil from a TMS machine is placed against the scalp delivering magnetic pulses to the brain. It is considered a safe treatment for those struggling with depression.

“Most insurance companies do pay for this treatment but this bill has nothing to do with mandating who pays for it, who doesn’t pay for it. It’s just making the treatment more accessible to the people that need it,” explained Sasser.

“Just want to make sure I understand, so the primary care physician can actually do the
procedure?” asked Rep. Cynthia Ball (D-Wake).

“Well, can have the procedure done. They don’t specifically own the machine that does it….they will send the patient to have that procedure done,” responded Sasser.

Tammy George told legislators that she is a firm believer in the TMS treatment.

“I have had a lot of trauma starting at age 4 and at age 48, two life events pushed me off the cliff,” George said in offering her support of TMS.

George said when her nephew died and her daughter disappeared, she would have be institutionalized without this treatment for her depression.

“Thank God I was in a psychiatric practice that knew about TMS and got me in the system quickly. Had my general practitioner or my primary care physician known about this, I could have gotten
help and been the woman that I am today,” said George.

George told lawmakers she is a successful business owner today, but might have realized that success 20 years earlier has she been treated sooner by her primary care physician.

She told lawmakers that she felt a difference within seven days of starting after suffering depression since age four.

“Please reach deep down in your heart and think hard about this. It’s a no-brainer for me because I’ve lived it.”

House Bill 939 moves next to the House Appropriations Committee.