UPPAC Update

by Cindy Chen, PsyD, UPPAC Chair, & Andy Benjamin, Ph.D. Grassroots Chair

Our Washington State Psychological Association professional lobbyist Leslie Emerick made recommendations about which legislators should receive our donations in early July. So far this year, donation checks have been delivered to 31 state house/senate legislators. Our volunteer grassroots psychologists have met within their local districts with the 31 legislators. They strongly advocated for better access to psychological services. They delivered the following message crafted by Lucy Homans, the WSPA Practice Director:

wa-olympia_smallFirst, candidates learned about the clinical issues facing their constituents. Second, the overarching issue in 2016 is ACCESS TO appropriate and effective psychological services. Candidates learned about the significant reduction in access to psychological services in recent years. Implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) serves to INCREASE access to care by including diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders as one of the 10 Essential health benefits that all insurance plans must include. However, commercial insurance companies and the Washington State Apple Health program have responded to this requirement by:

  1. Reducing access by psychologists to their insurance panels;
  1. Inappropriately denying use of CPT codes (90837) by psychologists and
    other providers. Both the Office of the Insurance Commissioner and the
    Office of the State Attorney General are investigating this matter.
  1. Increasing bureaucratic paperwork (psychologists should be specific about how much time it takes to file treatment update demands, to re-credential,
    and about any personal “horror stories” they have experienced)
  1. Reducing reimbursement rates.

The result has been that providers are being forced to leave insurance panels because they cannot afford to stay on the panels.

Third, it is ironic, given the above facts that the Washington State Health Care Authority has sent out requests to psychologists statewide begging us to sign on to state Medicaid provider panels. The Affordable Care Act has increased health insurance coverage to almost 300,000 Washington State residents who qualify for Apple Health (Medicaid) or for Medicaid expansion plans in the Washington State Exchange. But, they struggle to find a provider on one of the insurance panels.

This was not the promise offered by passage of our state’s mental health parity law.

The candidates were asked to support legislation to address the above concerns in order to increase access to appropriate and effective psychological services to their constituents.

The fund raising campaign of UPPAC raised about $4,000 in 2016, about $6,000 shy of our target. It is not too late to give. Please make a contribution of any amount by going the donations page on our website.