Mental health parity legislation gets preliminary approval
03/20/08 10:09AM By Bob Kinzel
(Host) The Senate has given its preliminary approval to legislation that strengthens Vermont's mental health parity law.
The original parity law was passed in 1997 and it requires health insurance companies to provide comparable coverage for physical and mental health conditions.
But Windham senator Jeannette White says the actual implementation of the law hasn't resulted in parity, because some health insurance companies have turned over the administration of mental health coverage to out of state managed care companies:
(White) "And although we are looked to as one of the best mental health parity states in the country we have not achieved that parity."
(Host) And White says the practices of some of the managed care firms have discouraged some individuals from seeking mental health services in Vermont:
(White) "The percent of health care dollars that goes to
mental health services has actually decreased by almost 50% since we passed
the mental health parity law, mental health services generally have a higher
level of co-pay, they generally have a lower level of reimbursement for
practitioners and there administrative barriers causing many therapists to drop
the coverage thus reducing access for clients."
(Host) The legislation gives the state Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration the specific authority to oversee how Vermont health insurance companies comply with the parity law.