Republican says the 'good thing' about Obamacare is wider mental health coverage ... but that raises more issues

12/02/2013 07:23 PM

Perhaps the best part of the Affordable Care Act is its requirement that all health insurance — including Medicaid — must cover mental and behavioral health treatment, a key Senate Republican said.

But that comes with its own set of challenges that lawmakers will have to take up in 2014, added Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville.

“One of the good things about Obamacare because it’s not all bad … is that it’s getting greater access to care for mental and behavioral health issues,” said Denton, who chairs the Senate’s Health and Welfare Committee. “But the problem in Kentucky is we don’t have enough providers available to treat the population that’s now going to have coverage.”

Health and Family Services Cabinet Secretary Audrey Haynes told hospital executives last month that the cabinet is making progress in “opening up” its behavioral health network beyond the nonprofit regional mental health centers to other private providers. It’s a way to expand the pool of mental and behavioral health professionals to help unjam the backlog of demand for Medicaid patients. But that could have a ripple effect across Kentucky, Denton warned.

“If we don’t have more front-line providers to see those individuals, we’re all going to see long lines to see our physicians,” she said.

Denton addresses that (2:00) as well as legislative proposals to allow nurse practitioners more authority when seeing patients (3:00) and the high demand for drug treatment (4:00).

Denton also offered praise for Haynes, who took over the health cabinet in June 2012.

“I do want to give a shout-out to Audrey Haynes because I think she is a really good cabinet secretary. She’s been great to work with, and we have a great relationship. It’s nice to have a secretary who is willing to have dialogue and communicate and discuss issues — even the tough issues,” Denton said (7:00).

Denton often clashed with Haynes’ predecessor, Janie Miller, mostly over communication issues.

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