Medicaid coverage of outpatient mental health services is a matter of health equity

March 14, 2019

For many Washington residents, intensive outpatient mental health services can be life-changing. These services are essential to “bridging the gap” of health care for Washingtonians who have been discharged from a hospital but still need intensive care to assist in their recovery. Such services also help individuals avoid hospitalization by providing preemptive care.

Currently, partial hospitalization — which are programs that allow patients to come in for mental health treatment during the day and return home at night — is covered by Medicare and most private insurance plans, but not Medicaid. This is a matter of health equity in our state. It is vital that all Washington residents, including those on Medicaid, have access to a robust continuum of mental health care.

Our team at WSHA has been working with several of our members to collect stories of partial hospitalization from across Washington State. These personal stories illustrate the importance of access to these essential services.

One woman, Monica, shared her experiences as a patient of MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup. Following a diagnosis of breast cancer, Monica was referred to the hospital’s cancer center. While undergoing treatment, Monica started feeling extremely depressed and anxious. She spoke with a nurse about her mental health and was able to access inpatient psychiatric treatment. After being discharged, Monica wanted to continue treatment, but was told that she wouldn’t be seen for at least eight weeks. Remembering that time, Monica said, “I thought that if I didn’t get immediate mental health care, I wouldn’t be alive in eight weeks.” Luckily, through the help of her doctor, Monica was able to access life-changing outpatient partial hospitalization services as she continued cancer treatment. Now, Monica is cancer free.

Monica’s story is just one example of how impactful access to outpatient mental health services can be. At WSHA, we firmly believe that everyone in Washington state should be able to receive these services. As a member of WSHA’s government affairs team, I am dedicated to urging legislators to fund coverage of partial hospitalization services as a Medicaid benefit in Washington. I invite you to join me in this important work. Tell your legislators that all Washington residents, including low-income Washingtonians on Medicaid deserve access to care and services to help them remain stable and healthy members of their communities.

The full collection of partial hospitalization stories is available on our website.


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