Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island will contribute $5 million over the next five years to a new state fund designed to support and expand access to mental health care.
The establishment of the fund, announced late Tuesday by the state Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner, comes as the office completes an in-depth examination of Rhode Island’s four major health insurers’ practices of covering mental health or behavioral health care.
State and federal laws require health insurance plans to provide coverage of mental health and substance-use disorders under the same terms and conditions as coverage for other illnesses and diseases.
The examination, which began in 2015, looks at whether insurers in the state are providing “parity” for mental health coverage. The examination was temporarily suspended due to funding cuts in fiscal 2017, Cory King, the commission’s principal policy associate, said in an email. The examination is expected to be completed later this month, he said.
It’s not clear whether BlueCross’ $5 million contribution to the fund was voluntary or a requirement related to the commission’s findings. Asked whether the contribution was required, King declined to comment.
The fund will be administered by the Rhode Island Foundation. Blue Cross’s contribution -- $1 million per year over the next five years -- will be used to fund grants to support services that improve prevention and access to "high quality, affordable behavioral health care services,’’ the office said.
Grant applications will be solicited annually, with the first solicitation expected this fall.