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Bill supporting mental, behavioral healthcare coverage heads to Gov. Stitt’s desk

The full Senate gave final approval to legislation on Thursday that would ensure Oklahomans have access to mental and behavioral healthcare in a timely and more affordable manner.

Sen. Jessica Garvin, R-Duncan, authored Senate Bill (SB) 254, which requires insurers to arrange such care quickly with an out-of-network provider if such care is unavailable in-network.

“In a mental health crisis, getting proper care can be a matter of life and death. This will require insurers to help patients arrange mental health care when they can’t find timely services on their own,” Garvin said. “This reform will make sure Oklahomans can get the help they need quickly and without the higher costs associated with out-of-network care. This will make Oklahoma a leader in mental health care.”

Under SB 254, should a patient not be able to find the necessary in-network mental and behavioral healthcare, the insurer will be required to arrange the necessary care out-of-network. The bill prohibits costs for out-of-network care from being passed onto the patient outside of their normal deductible and copay. Each health plan will also be required to have a documented procedure to assist a plan member in accessing out-of-network behavioral healthcare.

SB 254 also allows the Oklahoma Insurance Department to see the procedure if they have to investigate an instance of a failure to ensure coverage. Lastly, the bill will also allow telehealth services to be used when deemed medically appropriate.

Rep. Jeff Boatman, R-Tulsa, authored the bill while in the House.

“When mental health services are unavailable in a reasonable timeframe, Oklahomans suffer,” Boatman said. “By requiring a matching rate for in-network providers when care is provided out-of-network in these situations, Oklahomans across the state can receive the assistance they need without worrying about the cost being passed on to them.”

SB 254 now heads to the governor’s officer for final consideration. If signed, the new law would go into effect on Nov. 1, 2023.

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