Want to bring the BMG community’s attention to an impressive speech made during budget debate Thursday night by freshman Sen. John F. Keenan, who called insurance companies out on the carpet for failing to meet obligations under the state’s parity laws.
Sen. Keenan, is the new co-chairman of the Joint Committee on mental Health and Substance Abuse, along with veteran Rep. Liz Malia. Sen. Keenan had gained some attention for highlighting the problem of mental health patients being warehoused in emergency rooms while waiting for beds to open up.
The underlying problem, of course, is our chronically underfunded mental health system which has taken an unfair share of cuts over the past three years. However, the more acute issue is that hospitals aren’t able to charge insurance companies for boarding their clients for days, and in some instances, weeks on end.
Sen. Keenan had offered an amendment that would have changed this and allowed hospitals to charge the per diem rates. He apparently knew the amendment was going to be defeated, but used the opportunity to instead call out insurance companies for breaking federal and state parity laws.
He said a patient in diabetic shock would not be stabilized and then allowed to linger on a hospital gurney in a hallway for days on end. But that’s exactly what happens with mental health patients.
The video is not yet up at the Senate webpage, so I can’t quote him directly, but Sen. Keenan essentially said that insurance companies have failed to meet their obligations under state parity laws, and that insurance companies will be called before the committee to explain themselves.
And to further underscore the apparent importance of Sen. Keenan’s comments, Senate President Therese Murray immediately commended Sen. Keenan in a rare bit of editorializing from the rostrum.
It will be interesting to see if the committee follows through on these promising comments from Sen. Keenan, and force insurance companies to finally start to provide appropriate services to those battling mental illness.