Michigan Association of Health Plans

Letter: Medicaid reform: Time to provide choice and integrate care

Sen. Aric Nesbitt

26th state Senate District

Improving access, choice and delivery of behavioral health care services is vital to one’s physical health. Roughly one in five people in our state have a mental health illness. According to national studies, seven out of 10 adults with a behavioral health disorder reported having at least one physical disorder.

Nearly every single insurance plan offered in the commercial market by an employer integrates mental health services with physical healthcare coverage.

Unfortunately, integrated care is not provided for more than 2 million Michigan residents on Medicaid. To receive treatment for severe mental health conditions, these residents are forced to use and rely upon an antiquated government-run patchwork system of state, county and private medical providers. They have no choice or options.

Our Medicaid population does not receive their mental health care services from their health plan like you and me. Even though they utilize a self-selected health plan for their physical care, for behavior care, they are forced to use a separate government-run mental health system. As such, they must navigate two bifurcated and vastly different systems for their health care.

Private health plans not allowed to even offer Medicaid consumers certain mental health services even if the care is more accessible, better quality and or cheaper than the current state-run system.

This bifurcation in care has been in place for decades with no reform. I have heard from Medicaid patients who are not satisfied with our government-run mental health services. Lack of coverage, inability to cross county lines for services and lack providers plague the system today.

Legislation is pending that would reform Medicaid to integrate care and provide choice to consumers. We must work to create a better mental health network that gives consumers choice to select plans that cover physical and mental health needs. It’s fair and long overdue.

This letter to the editor was written by Senator Aric Nesbitt. 

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