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Finance plans "ghost network" mental health hearing

Senator Ron Wyden talks to reporters

Wyden talks to reporters at the Capitol in February. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The Senate Finance Committee is planning a hearing scrutinizing health insurers for "ghost networks" that do not provide adequate access to mental health care, Chairman Ron Wyden told Axios on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The move shows Wyden's focus on mental health and serves as a warning shot to insurance companies.

Between the lines: The hearing is not imminent and is not expected until later this spring. But Wyden is clearly fired up about the issue.

  • "These ghost networks are outrageous," he said.
  • Asked if he will call insurers to testify, Wyden did not directly answer, saying "we'll have more to say" about the hearing. But he said there is "flagrant abuse" of existing law that is supposed to require equal coverage of mental health and physical health.
  • Wyden and Sen. Tina Smith introduced a bill last Congress to allow for monetary penalties against insurers that do not live up to standards on having accurate provider directories and networks. (A catch: That bill is in HELP's jurisdiction.)

Reality check: Getting Republican support for proposals like financial penalties on insurers that do not comply with parity rules is likely to be a tough lift.

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