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Vice Speaker: If timetable is met, DMHSA will save taxpayers millions of dollars

Monday, April 9th, 2012 at 11:57 am

Vice Speaker: If timetable is met, DMHSA will save taxpayers millions of dollars

(April 8, 2012 – Hagåtña) If plans to set up a fee schedule are met, the Department of Mental Health and Substance abuse could soon be weaned off the taxpayer. That is what Vice Speaker Benjamin J.F. Cruz told Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo in letter sent Friday.

According to Cruz, for many years insurance companies have been required to provide coverage for mental health services. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, or MHPAEA, requires private health insurance plans to provide equal coverage for mental and physical health services. It is one of several laws passed by Congress since 1996 to make mental health care have some level of parity with the way insurance companies and employers provide coverage for other forms of medical care.

“These federal laws also presented an opportunity to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse to wean itself off the taxpayer by charging the insurance companies for its services,” Cruz wrote. “A decade and a half later, the Department has yet to avail itself of this opportunity and continues to burden the general fund at an unnecessary level because it has not adopted a fee schedule.”

After pressure from the Vice Speaker, DMHSA is moving forward with plans to submit a fee schedule to the Legislature by May. The fee schedule would help to reduce the department’s reliance on the general fund. The Department’s budget was about $7 million in Fiscal Year 1997. In January, the Governor submitted in his Fiscal Year 2013 Executive Budget a request for $17.3 million for DMHSA’s operations.

In August 1996, then DMHSA Director Jeanette S. Tanos initiated the first proposed fee schedule. Since then, various draft fee schedules have been prepared but never promulgated. Over the last 16 years, laws were passed to facilitate this process, DMHSA directors have come and gone, and we have seen DMHSA’s operating budget steadily increase and then spike when it was placed under the Federal Management Team.

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For more information please contact Carlos B. Pangelinan at 477-2520 or carlos.pangelinan@senatorbjcruz.com.

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