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MHA Statement on Alexander-Murray

We applaud Senators Alexander and Murray for their bipartisan approach to addressing the potential chaos in health insurance markets initiated through the Executive Orders of last week.

In their work, they have demonstrated what we have long believed – that addressing shortcomings in the current law and Trump Administration orders requires a thoughtful, bipartisan approach, and that such an approach will bear fruit.

For now, their agreement is just a stopgap – but an extremely important one that will help millions of people, including many with behavioral health conditions.

By funding federal insurance cost-sharing contributions for two more years, insurance rates in the short-term will not skyrocket by an additional 20 percent, as would have happened if President Trump’s Executive Orders remained in place with no Congressional action.

These dramatic increases in insurance rates and the crisis the Executive Orders would have created would have been especially burdensome and harsh for those with some of the greatest needs, including those with serious mental illnesses.

This isn’t the time to be raising insurance rates thoughtlessly, and we hope that all members of Congress, as well as the President, will agree.

In addition, we applaud the effort to give states more flexibility in developing their insurance markets. But this must never be accomplished at the expense of the coverages that people with mental health conditions need. Selling inadequate insurance across state lines is certainly not the answer and never has been. But an approach that abides by the law of the land – the Affordable Care Act – while giving states greater flexibility can work, so long as consumer protections remain in place.

The so-called new copper plans may do some of this, but at a cost. While the premiums for these plans may be relatively modest (although still higher than many will expect), out-of-pocket costs will be high, and consumers with health conditions should weigh this this carefully before purchasing them. We congratulate the Senators for seeing to it that federally-supported enrollment assistance will be in place to help consumers navigate through these choices.

Alexander-Murray will also streamline the waiver process for health insurance exchanges, plus make it easier for states to win approval for “Me Too” waivers – in other words, waivers that seek to copy waiver programs that have already been proven to work in other states.

These two provisions have been central points of Mental Health America’s Medicaid reform advocacy this year, and we hope to see similar streamlining across waiver processes.

We look forward to the coming analysis and discussion of the Alexander-Murray proposal. More importantly, we look forward to the day when the President and Congress will move beyond the crisis management that has characterized this past year to the development of the long-term solutions that are needed to preserve access to quality care at affordable prices.

No one who has ever paid the slightest attention to healthcare policy believes that this is easy.

But it is essential.

And the longer-term answers – as always – lie in implementing better and more effective early identification and intervention strategies around all health conditions that will someday require treatment – including mental health conditions.

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