May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and many people are experiencing greater than usual stresses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department of Financial Regulation (DFR) wants to take a moment to reinforce the protections Vermont law provides to healthcare consumers seeking access to mental health and substance use disorder services.
“These are difficult times for all of us,” said Commissioner Michael Pieciak. “Many families are facing economic uncertainty and we all face anxiety about our own health and the health of our loved ones. I urge all Vermonters to pay attention to both their mental and physical well-being and be aware that Vermont law protects their ability to access mental health and substance disorder services.”
In 1998, Vermont implemented one of the most comprehensive mental health parity laws in the nation. The goal was to eliminate barriers to the treatment of mental health and substance use disorder conditions and to ensure that health insurance plans cover these conditions on the same terms and to the same extent that they cover other medical conditions.
Under Vermont law, health insurers offering comprehensive health insurance plans must have an adequate network of providers and treatment facilities for mental health and substance disorder conditions, cannot limit the number of visits you make to such providers, and cannot charge greater co-pays for outpatient mental health and substance disorder services than for other primary care medical services.
Further, in April, DFR issued an emergency rule requiring health insurers to cover mental health and substance disorder services delivered remotely by telephone, representing a significant expansion of telemedicine, and further helping to eliminate barriers to necessary services during the pandemic.
“If you find yourself in need of help, your access to mental health services should not be limited by your health insurance coverage. Please contact us with any questions about your insurance coverage,” said Deputy Commissioner Kevin Gaffney.” Questions about the protections provided to Vermont policyholders by Vermont’s mental health parity laws should be directed to the Insurance Consumer Services at 877-DFR-HOTLINE.
If you work for an employer that self-funds its health care coverage, then federal law rather than Vermont law governs your plan, but many of the same consumer protections are provided by the federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.
Vermonters in need of mental health and substance use disorder services, or health insurance coverage are encouraged to visit the following resources:
Get Mental Health Help Now: https://mentalhealth.vermont.gov/services/emergency-services/how-get-help
VT Helplink for Recovery Resources: https://vthelplink.org/
Sign-Up for Vt Connect Health Insurance: https://info.healthconnect.vermont.gov/
Learn more from Vermont Health Access: https://dvha.vermont.gov/covid-19
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