Assemblymember Bronson Passes Legislation to Expand Access to Mental Health Services in Upstate New York

June 19, 2019

Albany, NY – Assemblymember Bronson announced the passage of a legislative package he authored to make mental health services more accessible for families of Upstate New York. The legislation expands the number of mental health practitioners that are eligible for reimbursement under New York’s Medicaid system, and requires commercial insurance companies to cover the costs of outpatient mental health services.

“Every person should have access to mental health treatment, regardless of their income or where they live,” said Assemblymember Bronson. “By changing the existing law to allow mental health providers to bill for reimbursement under the Medicaid system, we are providing parity of access between those who can afford to pay for mental health care out of their own pocket, and those who cannot.”

40 of New York’s 62 counties are designated as mental health shortage areas[1], comprising 65% of the state. Over three million New Yorkers live in these designated shortage areas, and every one of the 40 shortage areas are located outside of New York City and Long Island, where mental health services are easily available.

A.648-A and A.8104 would amend Subdivision 2 of section 365-a of the social services law to enable licensed mental health practitioners to bill Medicaid directly for their services. Current law does not allow for such providers to do so, which results in a dramatic shortage of mental health care providers for Upstate New Yorkers with limited means.

The Assembly also passed A.670-A, which would require blanket health insurance policies to provide coverage for outpatient treatment by licensed mental health providers. Current law does not explicitly include all licensed mental health providers as allowable providers of outpatient mental health services, which results in insurance companies frequently denying coverage to patients in need.

“In the New York State Assembly, we put the needs of our families over the profits of the insurance industry, which is why I was proud to pass A670-A to require commercial insurance companies to cover the cost of mental health treatment for all patients,” Bronson added. “Taken together, these measures will expand mental health access to New Yorkers, regardless of their income, and help ensure that every member of our community has access to the mental health care that they need.”
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[1] https://www.omh.ny.gov/omhweb/resources/publications/sed-report.pdf