The Rhode Island Attorney General is teaming up with the Attorneys General of both Connecticut and Illinois, filing a brief to the US Appeals Court seeking to protect the mental health and substance abuse care that the three states are providing.
In the brief to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals they request a full review of the decision in Wit versus United Behavioral Health. That is a case from 2019 which found the nation's largest managed behavioral health company improperly denied mental health and addiction treatment coverage to thousands of subscribers.
“For decades, Rhode Island has recognized that treatment for mental health and substance use disorders should be covered adequately by an individual’s insurance coverage plan,” said Attorney General Peter F. Neronha. “A recent court decision ignored our state law that has long ensured adequate coverage for Rhode Islanders seeking critical behavioral health treatment. Today, I am standing with colleagues from Connecticut and Illinois to fight against what is a significant risk to how individuals in our respective state’s will receive that essential care.”
The three states have similar laws on the books. A health insurance company can only limit treatment for such disorders if it is by an industry standard.
At trial Wit was found to have violated the standards. That was in 2019. In March of this year, the ruling was overturned.
“We are on the cusp of major change when it comes to mental health and addiction treatment in this country,” said former U.S. Rep. (D-RI) and founder of The Kennedy Forum, Patrick J. Kennedy. “No longer will we accept subpar coverage from our insurers for behavioral challenges that dramatically impact health and well-being. By standing up to the 3-judge panel’s flawed ruling in Wit, state attorneys general Neronha, Tong, and Raoul are walking the walk not only for their constituents, but for every American who shares this common struggle.”
In Rhode Island alone, from 2011 to 2020 the state saw a more than 100 percent increase in annual overdose deaths. Accidental overdose deaths have increased as well.
There has been no decision made as to whether the Appeals Court will take up the matter further.
(Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)