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States Push Parity Forward

Mental health parity has been the issue at heart with many mental health advocates over the years.  The US Congress has taken up the issue for many years, but has yet to pass a comprehensive bill that will help enable individuals to get the care they need and deserve for their recovery from debilitating mental illness.  Fortunately state legislatures often step up and pass legislation that requires parity in their state.  Two such states have recently taken up this issue and are moving forward in making parity a reality.

Washington Govenor Christine Gregoire signed mental health parity into law on March 10th.  As she signed the legislation she stated, " This truly represents a great leap forward in the health of Washingtonians.  When we fail to treat mental illnesses in the same way we treat illnesses of the body, it costs everybody."   The new law will be phased in over four years starting in 2006.

An actuarial analysis prepared by Ronald Bachman of PricewaterhouseCoopers and paid for by Revelle's coalition concluded the measure would increase average premiums by 1.1 percent, or $2.93, a member, a month.  This percentage is in line with what other studies and analysis have shown about the cost of implementing parity.  What these costs never show is the savings from less lost time, less days missed at work, and increased productivity by individuals in recovery.  Read the full story about mental health parity in Washington in the Seattle Times. (Opens in a new browser window)

In Iowa, a bill has passed the House of Representatives and is moving on to the Senate requiring insurance to cover treatment for biologically based mental illness, which by definition covers schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar, schizoaffective, obsessive-compulsive, pervasive development and autistic disorders.  The Senate could possibly modify the bill since Iowa Democrats wish to include much broader language which includes covering substance abuse disorders as well.  Read the full story about mental health parity in Iowa in the Des Moines Register. (Opens in a new browser window)

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