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Lawmakers Advance HAP-Supported Behavioral Health Bill

Legislation improves transitions of care for Medicaid patients

April 26, 2022

The state House Human Services Committee today unanimously advanced legislation to take steps toward improving access to behavioral health care for Medicaid patients in Pennsylvania.

A shortage of inpatient psychiatric beds ​and appropriate treatment options has posed challenges across Pennsylvania’s health care community, as patients face long wait times to move from the emergency department to other settings for their behavioral health needs. House Bill 1644 (HB 1644) supports this critical transition of care and provides additional data to policymakers as they focus on the state’s behavioral health crisis.

This week, HAP sent a letter to committee members urging them to vote “yes” to advance the legislation.

“While the lack of inpatient psychiatric beds, widespread instances of hospital “boarding” due to lack of discharge options, and crisis capacity will require a comprehensive and sustained effort, HB 1644 is an immediate step that can be taken now to address this issue impacting Medicaid patients,” wrote Heather Tyler, HAP’s vice president, state legislative advocacy.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. James B. Struzzi II (R-Indiana), moves to the full House for consideration. HB 1644 would:

  • Require Behavioral Health Medicaid Managed Care Organizations (BH-MCOs) to devote resources to help hospitals find placements for individuals currently “boarded” in an emergency department or inpatient unit
  • If a placement is not found within 24 hours, a case must be referred to the Department of Human Services (DHS), which must work with the BH-MCO and others until an appropriate placement is identified
  • Permit—for the first time—DHS to track and measure the scope of this problem. This data will be invaluable to solve these daunting issues over time

HAP and Pennsylvania’s hospital community continue to focus on solutions to improve Pennsylvania’s behavioral health system and address patients' health care needs. HAP supports HB 1644 as part of this broader effort to address the commonwealth’s behavioral health crisis.

For more information, contact Heather Tyler, HAP’s vice president, state legislative advocacy, or Jeffrey Bechtel, HAP’s senior vice president, health economics and policy. For more information about HAP’s behavioral health priorities, contact Jennifer Jordan, HAP’s vice president, regulatory advocacy.