California Poised to Become National Leader on Mental Health and Addiction Coverage

August 27, 2020

Californians could see the most dramatic expansion of mental health and addiction coverage under state law in decades, if Gov. Gavin Newsom signs a bill that is likely heading to his desk in coming weeks.

The bill – SB 855 by Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco – would significantly expand what treatments are considered medically necessary for health insurance coverage. Current state law requires health plans to cover medically necessary treatment of just nine serious mental illnesses; the new law would expand that coverage to include a much broader array of mental health issues, notably substance use disorder and addiction, among others.

“We have failed as a society in giving people access to basic mental health and addiction treatment and we’ve allowed insurance companies to limit their coverage to crisis care, which we would never tolerate for physical health,” [Wiener] said. “Imagine being diagnosed with Stage 1 cancer and being told your insurance will kick in when you get to Stage 4 cancer. That’s what we tolerate for mental health and addiction.” - CalMatters, August 27th, 2020