Clarification of in-school behavioral health coverage sought

Insurance companies in Nebraska would be required to pay for covered behavioral health services delivered in schools under a bill considered March 5 by the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee.

Sen. Rick Kolowski
Sen. Rick Kolowski

Omaha Sen. Rick Kolowski said he introduced LB619 because there is confusion in current law about whether insurance companies will reimburse a provider who meets with a client at school. Behavioral health providers sometimes offer services at a school when transportation is difficult or impossible for a student, he said.

“LB619 is one small step to giving our students the mental health care they need,” Kolowski said.

He added that the bill is not a change in coverage nor an insurance mandate because it requires coverage for services delivered in a school setting only if a policy already provides coverage for behavioral health treatment.

Chadron Schools superintendent Caroline Winchester testified in support of the bill. Winchester said there currently is one mental health provider willing to hold appointments in Chadron schools. Other providers no longer do because they aren’t being reimbursed for their services, she said.

“Many of our students needing services do not have transportation because both parents work,” Winchester said, adding that even those with reliable transportation can’t afford the classroom time lost driving to and from appointments.

Jason Hayes of the Nebraska State Education Association also testified in support of the bill. He said the fear of not being reimbursed has created a “chilling effect” on therapists’ willingness to provide services in a school setting.

Also testifying in favor of LB619 was Eric Dunning of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska. He said the bill would expand access to mental health care in the state.

No one spoke in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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