New Law Boosts Insurance Coverage For Addiction, Mental Health Treatment

Sep 1, 2015

Governor Gina Raimondo has signed into law new protections for patients battling mental health and substance abuse problems.

Rhode Island already requires health insurance to cover treatment for mental health and substance abuse, but the new law goes even further.

Gov. Gina Raimondo speaking at overdose prevention bill signing at the Anchor Recovery Community Center.
Credit Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

For years, addiction professionals have consulted guidelines from the American Society of Addiction Medicine to determine the best course of treatment for their patients. But until now, health insurers had the final say about how much and what kind of treatment they would pay for. 

The Providence Center’s nursing director Sharon Morello says that hurt patients.

“Using this criteria has been helpful, but only to us internally," said Morello, "because we and the insurance company were not using the same criteria to determine, is this the right placement for this patient, is this the right level of care?”

The law now requires insurers to rely on the same criteria as medical professionals when determining what they’ll cover. That means patients may have access to longer or more intense treatment if they need it. 

Morello says that's especially important for addicts, who often need ongoing care.

“[Addiction] is not something we treat intermittently and then expect success," Morello said. "We’ve got a chronic long-term disease that we treat episodically and wonder why it doesn’t work.”

Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Cranston) and Rep. Patricia Serpa (D-Warwick) introduced the Insurance Coverage for Mental Illness and Substance Abuse in the General Assembly.