Pa. Legislature passes bills giving health care providers, insurance companies access to mental health records

HARRISBURG — A pair of bipartisan bills that would allow health care providers and insurers to access patients’ mental health records passed the state Senate on Thursday and is headed to Gov. Tom Wolf.

Currently, health care providers and insurance companies cannot access a patient’s mental health records unless the patient signs a waiver. Lawmakers said the new measures would bring state law in line with current holistic approaches to medicine.

Wolf did not commit to signing either of the two billsas he has not yet reviewed them, according to spokesperson Beth Rementer.

Rep. Mike Schlossberg, a Lehigh County Democrat and co-sponsor of the bills, said they would bring mental and physical health out of their separate “silos” and make it easier for doctors to create comprehensive treatment plans.

Currently, if a patient in treatment for addiction is brought to an emergency room, Schlossberg said, the doctors wouldn’t know not to prescribe potentially addictive pain medications.

Mental health care providers have cited the difficulty of accessing records as a contributing factor to burnout, Schlossberg said.

He hopes easier access to records could help mitigate Pennsylvania’s shortage of health care providers.

Both bills passed the House unanimously. In the Senate, though, a handful of “no” votes were for the most part tied to patient confidentiality concerns.

Democratic state Sen. John Kane of Chester County had “major privacy concerns,” according to spokesperson Steve Warhola.

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“Senator Kane’s been in recovery for 38 years. In that community, we hold anonymity in the highest regard due to stigma associated with addiction,” Warhola said. “Under current law, patients already have the opportunity to consent to have their records shared.”

The Drug & Alcohol Service Providers Organization of Pennsylvania sent Kane a statement

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