How Massachusetts became a national leader on health care — and how it can lead again

Massachusetts has been a clear leader when it comes to health care coverage, and as a result, outpaces other states in health care outcomes. But it has taken a village of health care policymakers, economists, practitioners, community leaders, and legislators to create an insurance coverage system that not only works, but that also rises above partisan acrimony.

Another area where the state’s performance leaves a lot to be desired is access to behavioral and mental health and drug use disorder services, with many providers refusing insurance for behavioral health at the current reimbursement rates.

“The first thing we have to do for mental health and substance use disorders is raise the rates that we pay to providers for the service. They are extremely low and it’s just forcing people out of the system,” says state senator Cindy Friedman. The second thing, she says, is integrating behavioral health into primary care. “We have to stop carving out mental health. As long as we treat it as a stepchild or a separate piece of health care, it will be so difficult to get to.”

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