Mental health disorders are common in the U.S., and the state Senate is considering a mandate that would require health insurers to cover annual mental health wellness examinations.

University of Hawaii Student Stories project badgeAbout 50% of people in the United States get diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder during their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And only about a third of adults with a mental illness diagnosis in Hawaii receive treatment.

Ahead of advancing a measure to address those issues, members of the Senate want the state auditor to evaluate the financial and social benefits of mandating health insurance coverage for mental health examinations.

The Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 229 unanimously March 23. The full Senate will vote on SCR 229, which requests the study, on Wednesday. If the resolution passes, it will go to the House for further consideration.

Wide view of the Senate floor. Legislature Crossover 2020
The Senate is expected to vote Wednesday on a resolution to study the benefits of mandating insurance coverage for mental health examinations. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

John Kirimitsu, a legal and government relations consultant representing Kaiser Permanente, asked lawmakers in his written testimony to better define “mental health wellness examinations.” He asked lawmakers to make those examinations similar to annual physical exams to allow health insurers to determine coverage requirements.

He also requested an impact assessment report and a survey of other states that have implemented a similar mandate, to determine social and financial impacts.

No opponents of the resolution testified in-person nor through a written testimony during the hearing.

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