Bill would end insurance discrimination for mental health, addiction treatment: HB19-1269 addresses Colorado’s opioid and suicide crises

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Kara Rowland, 202-288-2802

Aubree Hughes, 405-615-3845

DENVER, March 26 – More than a million Coloradans face a mental health or substance use disorder. Only half get the care they need. House Bill 19-1269 will hold insurers accountable to current state and federal parity laws that require treating mental health and addiction equal to physical health care.

Colorado has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation. The bill sponsors, Reps. Tom Sullivan and Lisa Cutter and Sen. Joann Ginal, are working with Mental Health Colorado to modernize behavioral health coverage laws and eliminate loopholes that allow many Coloradans to fall through the cracks.

Mental Health Colorado’s interim President and CEO Nancy VanDeMark said Coloradans shouldn’t have to declare bankruptcy to get treatment for their mental health or substance use disorder.

“We hear every day from families who are denied coverage, put on a waitlist for months without care, or forced to pay thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs,” VanDeMark said. “If we’re serious about addressing the state of mental health in Colorado, we must shift our system away from late-stage treatment to early intervention. When insurers fail to pay for mental health and substance use services early, the state pays later.”

HB19-1269 creates transparency and accountability to ensure compliance with parity laws. Colorado’s parity law was enacted in 1997. Evidence suggests it is not being enforced. Colorado’s insurers pay mental health professionals 30 percent less than they pay other health care providers, and Coloradans go out of network seven times more often for mental health and addiction treatment than they do for physical care.