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Health--it's what we all have in common: whether we're trying to maintain our health through good habits or improve our failing health. "Bridges to Health" is 90.5 WESA's health care reporting initiative examining everything from unintended consequences of the Affordable Care Act to transparency in health care costs; from a lack of access to quality care for minority members of our society to confronting the opioid crisis in our region. It's about our individual health and the well-being of our community.Health care coverage on 90.5 WESA is made possible in part by a grant from the Jewish Healthcare Foundation.

Expert: State Should Sue Insurers Who Skirt Covering Rehab

Charles Williams

While much of the testimony at a state Senate hearing in Pittsburgh on Thursday focused on the need for the state to fund opioid addiction treatment regimens, one expert recommended the state take legal action against insurers who illegally deny coverage of long-term rehabilitation programs for those addicted to heroin or prescription painkillers.

Deb Beck, president of the Drug and Alcohol Services Providers of Pennsylvania, said other states are cracking down on insurers who aren’t complying with a 2008 federal law.

“I have not seen an insurance plan that’s in compliance with the Mental Health Parity Act – that’s the Mental Health, Drug and Alcohol Parity Act," Beck said. "That’s the federal law that has a state role, where New York’s gotten really aggressive and gone after it through litigation, kind of a joint action between the Attorney General’s office and the Insurance Department, which we would welcome here.”

According to the federal Department of Labor, the law in question prevents insurance companies from placing greater restrictions on drug addiction treatment programs than they would put on medical or surgical procedures. According to Beck, Pennsylvania insurance companies aren’t complying.  

Beck said the stigma of drug addiction discourages people from filing complaints about insurance companies’ rehab policies, so the issue isn't brought to the state's attention.

“If I’m the consumer, I’m the mother or father. I’m embarrassed," Beck said. "I don’t want to tell anybody that I’ve got one with a problem in the family. This isn’t a normal illness. I’m not going to file a complaint.”

Other speakers at Thursday's hearing called for increased funding to various intervention and treatment programs, including an idea to train doctors and police officers on how to properly deal with addicted individuals without putting them into the criminal justice system.

Healthcare coverage on 90.5 WESA is made possible in part by a grant from the Jewish Healthcare Foundation.