Harris proposes doubling mental health treatment beds

Harris proposes doubling mental health treatment beds
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Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisConway: Trump is 'toying with everybody' by attacking Bloomberg for stop-and-frisk comments The Hill's Campaign Report: New challenges for 2020 Dems in Nevada, South Carolina Beleaguered Biden turns to must-win South Carolina MORE (Calif.) on Monday said she wants to double the number of mental health treatment beds across the country and rely on Medicare to cover mental health services.

As part of her mental health platform unveiled Monday, Harris said she wants to focus on vulnerable populations such as veterans and children and remove “roadblocks” such as surprise billing for out-of-network providers or higher charges for mental health services.

“My plan will deliver mental health care on demand and get care for all Americans who need it by removing obstacles like high copays and deductibles, providing direct access to providers via telemedicine, and investing research dollars into public health challenges facing our veterans,” Harris said.

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Harris’s plan would double the number of treatment beds in the U.S. while prioritizing states that have shortages. She specifically mentioned Iowa, Nevada and South Carolina — all early voting states — as well as Michigan, which is a key swing state.

Harris said she wants to address the shortage of mental health and addiction treatment providers across the country by paying providers more.

She also proposed to repeal a Medicaid policy that prohibits federal funds from going toward large mental health institutions, which she said has exacerbated a shortage of acute psychiatric care beds. 

Harris did not specify how she would pay for her mental health plan, which relies heavily on her “Medicare for All” plan. Her Medicare for All plan would offer mental health services on demand through phone or video to all Americans without deductibles or copays. 

It proposes a $100 million fund for Native American communities to address mental health but does not put a price on other policies, which could be quite expensive.

For example, Congress has tried to get rid of the Medicaid payment policy in the past but failed largely because of the price tag. A Congressional Budget Office estimate of a previous bill that included such a repeal found it would cost $40 to $60 billion over 10 years.