California Legislature Passes AB 1437 to Reduce Access Barriers for Mental Health Patients

Reform marks a victory for patients with serious mental illness and encourages stability, timely treatment

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Sept. 14, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Patients with serious mental illness in California will have better, more consistent access to prescribed medication thanks to AB 1437, a bill passed by the California State Legislature.

The bill ensures that, if patients with serious mental illness have already completed a prior authorization for their prescribed antipsychotic medication in the past 12 months, they won’t have to undergo additional re-authorizations for a refill. Prior authorization is a process whereby insurance companies must approve a clinician-prescribed medicine, procedure or test before a patient can get coverage.

The Alliance for Patient Access, the California Access Coalition and the Psychiatric Physicians Alliance of California thank Assembly Members Jacqui Irwin and Sharon Quirk-Silva and applaud the California State Legislature for passing AB 1437 with wide bipartisan support.

“AB 1437 is a straightforward, transformational step in ensuring patients remain stable and retain access to their already approved medications,” said Rimal Bera, MD, chairman of the Alliance for Patient Access’ Mental Health Working Group. “Arbitrary insurance barriers burden both patients and providers and often serve to destabilize the most vulnerable. I’m encouraged that the legislature has recognized this and taken steps to ensure appropriate mental health care for Californians. AfPA and our Mental Health Working Group urges the Governor to sign this important piece of legislation.”

“The California Access Coalition has led a coalition of cosponsors and supporters for several years and we are thrilled to get to this point in the legislative process. We remain committed to advancing policies that ensure that patients have more timely access to needed medications. We urge the Governor to sign this important bill,” said Dr. Le Ondra Clark Harvey, executive director of the California Access Coalition.

“AB 1437 avoids the bad outcomes that inevitably occur when you don’t get the right medication, at the right time, to the right patient. Psychiatrists strongly support this legislation,” said Randall Hagar, a legislative advocate and policy advisor at the Psychiatric Physicians Alliance of California.

Supporting Serious Mental Illness Patients in California

A serious mental illness is a mental, behavioral or emotional disorder that places a serious impairment on a patient’s ability to participate in daily life. Major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder are all types of serious mental illnesses.

Treating patients with serious mental illness in a timely manner and providing them with the support they need can help them maintain stability and quality of life. Adherence is critical for these patients. But the slightest delay in receiving prescribed treatment – especially treatment that is ongoing – can disrupt care and undermine the trust between patient and health care provider.

The Harm of Prior Authorization

Excessive utilization management tactics, such as prior authorization, can prevent patients from accessing the treatment they need in a timely manner. Completing a prior authorization can take days, even weeks, with no guarantee that a patient’s authorization will be approved. Patients may go without their medication for long stretches during the authorization approval process, and then they still may be unable to access the right treatment if their approval is denied.

About the Alliance for Patient Access

The Alliance for Patient Access is a national network of policy-minded health care providers who advocate for patient-centered care.

About the California Access Coalition

The California Access Coalition is a network of local and state behavioral health organizations that advocate to eliminate barriers that keep Californians from accessing medication and behavioral health treatment.

About the Psychiatric Physicians Alliance of California

The Psychiatric Physicians Alliance of California is a network dedicated to serving the interests and needs of psychiatrists throughout the state while advocating for sound and equitable mental health care for all Californians.

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SOURCE Alliance for Patient Access; California Access Coalition; Psychiatric Physicians Alliance of California

California Legislature Passes AB 1437 to Reduce Access Barriers for Mental Health Patients WeeklyReviewer

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