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In her State of the State, Raimondo to pledge strengthening of R.I. health-care laws

Providence Journal - 1/16/2018

Jan. 16--Governor Raimondo is pledging to make certain health insurers cover adequate treatment for mental-health and substance-abuse disorders.

In her State of the State address Tuesday, the governor will push for strengthening existing law that requires insurers to treat behavioral health issues -- everything from depression to opioid addiction -- the same way they would physical conditions.

"I hear from so many Rhode Islanders who are beside themselves because they or their loved ones can't get access to good mental health care, mostly because their insurance company won't pay for it. That needs to stop," Raimondo is expected to say, according to prepared remarks.

"In the coming weeks, I'll be introducing legislation to make health insurance companies cover addiction and mental health treatment just like they cover diabetes or other chronic conditions."

Health insurance commissioner Marie Ganim said it's an issue her office deals with frequently. For example, Ganim said, a family might complain that a teenager dealing with bulimia or a substance-abuse issue has been discharged from care prematurely. The office will then investigate whether the insurer acted properly.

"Part of the problem is the stigma," Ganim said. "You can't just suck it up and overcome a mental health problem."

The Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner issued a report in November looking at the difficulties in enforcing what are known as behavioral health parity laws.

"This report comes at a time of an acute crisis in the field of mental health. Countless lives are being lost prematurely to suicide and drug overdoses," the report reads. "Inaction is not an option. The governor has strongly committed to curb our overdose crisis, and has required all government agencies to participate. Indeed, research has demonstrated a link between opioid addiction and lack of health insurance."

Raimondo will deliver her state of the state address to a joint session of the House and Senate at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, in the House chamber.

The speech will be broadcast live on Capitol TV which can be seen on Cox and Full Channel on Channel 15, in high definition on Cox Channel 1013, and on Channel 34 for Verizon subscribers. It will also be live streamed at

In a Facebook video, Raimondo also promised to talk about "how far we've come -- but also about how much further we still need to go."

"For most of the year that I ran for Governor, our unemployment rate was the highest in the nation. We missed out on investing in 21st century jobs like computers and advanced manufacturing, and boy we paid the price."

"Now, we're bending the curve. For all of last year, our unemployment rate was right around the national average. Businesses are choosing Rhode Island again. Companies big and small want to be here and hire Rhode Islanders. But I know there are still too many people looking for work. We're not flying yet. We need to do more. And we will do more."


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On Twitter: @JenniferBogdan


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