CHICAGO — The American Medical Association (AMA) today applauded California Governor Gavin Newsom and the sponsors of the state’s new mental health reform law, Senate Bill 855, which will require all health insurers and behavioral health management organizations to rely on evidence-based treatment guidelines developed by physicians and health care professionals—and not financial considerations. These new state reforms go into effect on January 1, 2021. Governor Newsom signed the bill Friday, September 25 after near-unanimous votes in the California Assembly and Senate.

“This law sets a new precedent for all other states to protect patients with a mental illness or substance use disorder,” said Patrice A. Harris, M.D., M.A., AMA immediate past president and chair of the AMA Opioid Task Force. “Not having to fight insurance companies to use the generally accepted standards of care for our patients will improve treatment and save lives.”

The law adopts some of the most important findings of the court in Wit v. United Behavioral Healthcare, where a federal court last year issued a scathing rebuke to United Behavioral Health (UBH) for placing the payer’s financial interests over the safety and well-being of patients from 2011-2017 across four states: Connecticut, Illinois, Rhode Island and Texas. Whereas the Wit decision only applied to UBH, the reforms contained in SB 855 will apply to all health insurers in California.

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The American Medical Association is the physicians’ powerful ally in patient care. As the only medical association that convenes 190+ state and specialty medical societies and other critical stakeholders, the AMA represents physicians with a unified voice to all key players in health care.  The AMA leverages its strength by removing the obstacles that interfere with patient care, leading the charge to prevent chronic disease and confront public health crises and, driving the future of medicine to tackle the biggest challenges in health care.