For Immediate Release: February 22, 2007
Senator Debbe Leftwich
Bill to Provide Greater Access to Behavioral Health Services
Killed in Committee
State Sen. Debbe Leftwich said her measure to
improve access to behavioral health care in Oklahoma is dead
for two years after failing to receive passage from a Senate
committee on Thursday. Leftwich said Senate Bill 452 would have
closed a loophole that currently prevents thousands of Oklahomans
from getting the treatment they need.
“Republicans in the Senate Retirement and Insurance Committee,
two of which sell insurance in the private sector, lined up
and voted in lockstep to protect their friends in the insurance
industry while Oklahomans seeking treatment for serious illnesses
have been shut out,” said Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City.
Leftwich said the problem is that the largest single insurance
company in the state refuses to cover the cost of seeing health
care providers such as licensed professional counselors, licensed
marriage and family therapists, behavioral health professionals
and advanced practice nurses. They will cover treatment by an
M.D. psychiatrist or a PhD psychologist. However, those doctors
are generally based in metropolitan areas.
“That means thousands of people in rural Oklahoma simply
can’t get the help they need,” said Leftwich. “This
bill would have guaranteed greater access for Oklahomans and
families who need behavioral health services by ensuring that
insurance companies follow the intent of the existing law. As
it is now, insurance companies have found a loophole so big
you could drive a truck through it.”
Leftwich said before killing the bill, there was a Republican
attempt to amend the bill so that all patients needing behavioral
treatment would have to first be seen by a doctor or psychologist.
She said that would actually have cost insurance companies more
money than her proposal, as those doctors tend to charge higher
rates to see patients.
“This leaves countless Oklahomans between a rock and a
hard place and unable to get the care they need,” Leftwich
said. “Many people don’t have a choice about their
insurance coverage if it’s provided through their job.
Even those who can afford to pay for a psychiatrist or psychologist
out-of-pocket may not live close enough to take advantage of
those services. Oklahomans have been sold out in favor of the
powerful insurance lobby.”
For more information contact:
Senator Leftwich's Office - (405) 521-5557