HCN News & Notes

Legislators Call for Increase to Substance-use Treatment Reimbursement Rates

BOSTON — With treatment beds across Massachusetts closing, 44 legislators wrote a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kate Walsh urging the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to increase MassHealth reimbursement rates for substance-related and addictive-disorders programs.

“Residents throughout our districts are struggling with substance-use disorders, and the data shows that this crisis is only continuing to grow. It is on us as a Commonwealth to do whatever we can to increase treatment services in our communities, and these reimbursement rates for substance-use providers play a critical role in that,” said state Sen. John Velis, Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use, and Recovery. “Treatment beds in my own district and throughout Massachusetts are closing because the current reimbursement rates are simply not sustainable. These closures don’t just impact the MassHealth members and uninsured residents who desperately depend on these programs; they increase the burden on our entire public healthcare system.”

The letter from legislators notes that current reimbursement rates have led to the recent closure of MiraVista Behavioral Health Center’s Acute Treatment Service (ATS) and Clinical Stabilization Service (CSS) beds. From February to March 2023, 189 ATS and CSS beds and 61 transitional support services and residential rehabilitation services beds closed either temporarily or permanently. Legislators argue that reimbursement rates must be competitive with surrounding states and other mental-health and hospital bed rates to guarantee that substance-use providers are able to provide necessary care to those who are not privately insured, while remaining financially viable.

“In every meeting I’ve had with providers on this issue, the first thing they always bring up is reimbursement rates. Turnover and burnout is rampant throughout our healthcare system, but this is especially true in the substance-use realm,” Velis said. “We have to do more to keep folks in these fields and keep these crucial services in our communities open, and that starts with increasing these reimbursement rates.”