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Neronha files against federal behavioral health insurance ruling


Neronha files against federal behavioral health insurance ruling

Mar 22, 2023 | 2:43 pm ET
By Christopher Shea
News from the States

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha is leading a multi-state effort challenging limits on insurance coverage for mental health and substance abuse care.

Neronha files against federal behavioral health insurance ruling
Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha (Photo courtesy of Rhode Island Office of Attorney General)

Neronha and attorneys general from 14 other states and Washington, D.C. are seeking a full review of the Ninth Circuit’s panel decision overturning the trial court’s decision in Wit v. United Behavioral Health (UBH).

The landmark case found the nation’s largest managed behavioral health care company wrongfully denied mental health and addiction treatment coverage to tens of thousands of subscribers.

The other states include Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

The AG’s office argues overturning this decision “creates barriers to access to mental illness and substance use disorder treatment, and unduly restricts behavioral health coverage for state residents,” according to a statement.

“For decades, Rhode Island has recognized that treatment for mental health and substance use disorders should be covered adequately by an individual’s insurance coverage plan,” Neronha said in the statement. “We must continue to ensure adequate coverage for Rhode Islanders seeking critical behavioral health treatment.”

In a statement, UnitedHealthCare said it is “committed to ensuring members have access to mental health care consistent with the terms of their health plans and in compliance with state and federal rules.”

“As part of our broader commitment to quality care, we continue to support members with increased access to providers and new ways to quickly get the effective behavioral support they need,” the healthcare provider said.

This denial of coverage from the federal court comes as substance abuse and mental health problems rise in the Ocean State.

Between 2011 and 2020, the state  saw a 108% increase in annual overdose fatalities, the AG’s office notes. Additionally, nearly 60% of Rhode Islanders were dealing with mild mental illness and approximately 39% who had severe mental illness did not receive treatment in 2019, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.