Illinois bill could require insurance coverage for annual mental health assessments

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) — State lawmakers are trying to help people get easier access to preventative mental health care.

House Bill 2847 could require the Illinois Department of Human Services to launch a public education campaign to bring awareness to the importance of mental health and wellness. 

The proposal would also allow people with most commercial insurance to have one free no-diagnosis mental health and wellness visit each year. Illinois would be the third state in the country to implement such a plan. 

Rep. Lindsey LaPointe (D-Chicago) said this can be critical to catch early-stage mental health symptoms. LaPointe, a former social worker, said this change can help Illinois work mental health access into the regular health care system.

“Maybe the idea of therapy is very overwhelming because we live in a society that severely stigmatizes mental health treatment,” LaPointe said Thursday. “Being able to just talk to your regular doctor about your mental health symptoms or maybe you do go to a social worker just for one mental health screening visit.”

LaPointe explained people needing further treatment could then get referrals to see mental health professionals in their insurance network. Although, the free mental wellness visit would not apply to people with a health savings account. Laura Minzer, President of the Illinois Life & Health Insurance Council worked with LaPointe to include language to exempt patients with high deductibles eligible for an HSA.

Rep. Lindsey LaPointe (D-Chicago) said this can be critical to catch early-stage mental health symptoms. 

“If the federal government doesn’t recognize it as a preventive service, then we need to make sure that we include that language to exempt out those specific types of plans so that those people who do have high deductible health plans eligible for HSA can preserve the tax advantages that go with that,” Minzer said. “You are paying up to the deductible.” 

House Republicans support the intent of the plan, but Rep. Will Hauter (R-Morton) said he is concerned about how the plan could be implemented. Hauter argued that this type of expansion could overwhelm the mental health care system.

“To now open this up as a free visit for self-diagnosed or no diagnosis, you just want to access your free visit every year,” Hauter said. “Millions more people would have this ability. I just see this as a real problem getting people in and appointments for people who really need it.”

The legislation passed unanimously out of the House Mental Health & Addiction Committee. House Bill 2847 now heads to the House floor for further consideration.

“There’s a difference between a mental health prevention wellness visit and real mental health treatment,” LaPointe stressed. “There’s a big difference. One is a check in assessment type of thing. The other might involve a certain type of therapy.” 

Copyright 2023. WAND TV. All rights reserved.

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May 4, 2023 at 09:44PM

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