Recent events involving BCBS in Florida threaten to cut already low provider reimbursements from insurers, cause confusion among patients about whether their mental health provider is covered by their insurance, and fly in the face of those who are fighting for equal treatment (parity) for mental health and physical health care, (which is the law but is not always being enforced). We are partnering with Mental Health America and other advocacy groups to address this issue by raising awareness and writing to our policy makers.
For those of you who have not heard about this highly publicized issue of the last few days, let me offer a quick review:
Brittany Davis first reported on August 10th in Health News Florida that BCBCFL was 'shaking up the mental health field.' "Some mental health providers say they will no longer treat Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Florida patients in light of a “surprising” letter they received from the company ....The letter announces that the insurer will terminate contracts with behavioral health providers by Nov. 30 and turn over management to a Kansas-based managed care company, New Directions Behavioral Health."
MHA immediately circulated an insightful analysis written by Paul Gionfriddo in his column Our Health Policy Matters that analyzes the impact of this decision on providers and patients."Those [mental health providers] who wish to continue to see BCBSFL patients will have to sign a contract with a new provider partially owned by Blue Cross and Blue [New Directions]. Their payments will be cut between 25% and 55%....Mental health advocates see the action as a violation of the federal Mental Health Parity Act, because only mental health providers have been singled out."
Health News Florida published a second article "Mental-health groups challenge BCBS, turn to feds" on August 31st. This article reports that "a coalition of 13 mental health groups has asked the federal government to help determine whether Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Florida is breaking a law that prohibits discrimination against the kinds of services they provide."
Mental Health America and its affiliate Mental Health Association of Palm Beach County are responding with letters in opposition and are trying to get more information. Mental Health America says this action "may be a violation of the Mental Health and Addictions Parity Act, and will cause disruption in the continued care of those with mental health disorders."
Mental Health America sent a series of materials including:
· Letter to CEO of BCBS - FL from Dr. David Shern (Letter to BCBS Florida.docx)
· Letter sent to Secretaries Sebelius, Geithner, and Solis from the Parity Implementation Coalition - of which MHA is a member (Final BCBS Cover.pdf)
· Letter to CEOs of BCBS - FL and New Directions Behavioral Health from the Parity Implementation Coalitions (Final New Directions Letter.pdf)
· 2 Articles detailing the termination of mental health providers under BCBS in Florida (BCBS Terminates ALL Mental Health Providers in Florida.doc and Big Insurer Shakes Up Mental.doc)
· Letter from the FL Office of Insurance Regulation in reply to a letter sent by Connie Gallieti, CEO of the Florida Psychological Association (Florida.pdf)
Here's what you can do to help. Write to our Florida Insurance Commissioner and to Blue Cross Blue Shield to express your concern about the disruption in access to care that the BCBS actions may create, the unacceptable reduction in payments for mental health providers, and the lack of parity in their actions. You can use language from the MHA letters listed above to help formulate your thoughts or write from your own perspective. Please send me copies at pgionfriddo@ mhapbc.org or Pam Gionfriddo, CEO Mental Health Association, 909 Fern Street, West Palm Beach Florida, 33460
Here are the addresses:
Dr. Robert I. Lufrano, CEO and Mr. Partick Geraghy, Incoming CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida
4800 Deerwood Campus Parkway, DC 1-8, Jacksonville, FL 34952
Kevin M. McCarty, Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, 200 East Gaines St., Tallahassee, FL 32399