The New Hampshire Hospital, the state’s only acute psychiatric treatment facility, has for the first time entered into contracts with several major health insurers, removing some barriers to receiving and paying for mental health care, has announced this week the NH Insurance Department.
Previously, the hospital negotiated special deals with insurers on a case-by-case basis, which sometimes left patients unsure of how their medical bills would be covered. DJ Battencourt, the deputy commissioner of the insurance department, said the new contracts will remove the reduction in financial uncertainty from the processing process.
“The individual can focus on improving and resolving their mental health issues and not have to worry about being drawn into a dispute over who is going to foot the bill and how much,” Bettencourt said.
Because the hospital accepts all patients regardless of their insurance coverage, some unpaid medical bills by insurance companies or patients ultimately fall out of the state budget.
In a statement, Governor Chris Sununu called the negotiation a victory for patients, insurers and taxpayers.
With the new contracts, the New Hampshire hospital will be a network provider for most commercially insured patients. The mental hospital now has contracts with Aetna, Ambetter, Anthem, Cigna, Harvard Pilgrim and United Health Care, which together provide more than 99% of the New Hampshire market.
Elliot Fisher, a health care researcher at Dartmouth, said in general that insurance companies have more leverage in cutting costs when negotiating contracts on behalf of their larger customer base rather than waiving fees unique for individual patients.
Most New Hampshire hospitals already have contracts with major insurers to pay for their large number of frequent patients. The mental hospital, on the other hand, has a much smaller base of patients who rarely come for treatment, making the need for large contracts less vital.
However, recent pressures on the state’s mental health system have prompted changes in the hospital’s financial model.
Over the past year, the state has struggled with a shortage of psychiatric beds as the demand for mental health help has increased during the pandemic. The issue culminated in an NH Supreme Court ruling that prompted the state to make significant changes to the mental health system.
Tyler Brannen, director of health economics in the insurance department, said contracts are a growing priority in mental health care.
“I think it’s obvious that there is a clear commitment to ensuring that providers are networked and that patients have access to these types of services,” he said.
Ken Norton, executive director of the NH branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said the contracts are a step towards empowering insurance companies to cover the cost of mental health treatments in the same way they cover treatment of other health emergencies.
“It’s hard to imagine how it would be if you have a heart attack and now go to a special state-run hospital, but your insurance company won’t pay anything,” he said. . noted. “It does not mean anything.”
Battencourt said it would also reduce stress for hospital staff, who spend time and resources negotiating prices for each patient.
He added that many New Hampshire hospital patients are there involuntarily and shouldn’t have to worry about whether their insurance will cover the stay.
“These are not the people who choose the treatment centers in Malibu,” he said. “These are people who are brought to the emergency room because something has happened and they need an appropriate placement.”