Senator Atkins Introduces Bill to Make it Easier for Medi-Cal Patients to Access Mental Health Care

February 13, 2018

SACRAMENTO—Today, Senator Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) introduced SB 1125, legislation that allows community health centers to bill Medi-Cal for two visits if a patient is provided mental-health services on the same day they receive other medical services.

Currently, if a patient receives treatment through Medi-Cal at a community health center from both a medical provider and a mental health specialist on the same day, the Department of Health Care Services will reimburse the center for only one visit, meaning both providers can’t be adequately reimbursed. A patient must seek mental-health treatment on a subsequent day in order for that treatment to be reimbursed as a second visit.

“There’s no reason the state shouldn’t reimburse providers of primary care and mental-health care for same-day visits. The federal Medicare program allows same-day reimbursement for these services, and Medi-Cal should, too,” Sen. Atkins said. “California’s current rules make even less sense when you learn that the state allows community health centers to bill for same-day Medi-Cal visits if a patient sees both a primary-care provider and a dental provider.”

Today, more than 1,300 community health centers serve California, providing comprehensive, high-quality care to 6.5 million people – or one in six Californians. 

“These centers provide a full spectrum of care, and it is critically important that they be able to seamlessly transition a patient from primary care to an on-site mental health specialist on the same day,” said Carmela Castellano-Garcia, CEO of CaliforniaHealth+ Advocates, an organization dedicated to advancing the mission of community health centers. “Behavioral health has always been a core service in community health centers, but as mental health awareness has increased and the stigma has decreased, there has been an increase in the number of patients seeking behavioral health services. SB 1125 is critical to achieving the timely access to behavioral health services our communities deserve.”

“California should be a national leader when it comes to promoting a fully integrated approach to health care, encompassing both brain and body,” added Maggie Merritt, executive director of the Steinberg Institute, a Sacramento-based nonprofit dedicated to advancing sound policy on issues of brain health. “And a key aspect of promoting integrated care is knocking down financial barriers for providers. SB 1125 does exactly that. It’s good for patients and good for California.”