Bill Would Make Insurance Companies Treat Mental Illness Like Physical Illness

The N.C. House has given final approval to a
bill requiring North Carolina insurance companies to cover mental
illnesses in the same way they pay to treat physical problems.

Representatives voted 111-2 to accept changes made in the Senate
to the measure, subject of a nearly 15-year campaign by its
supporters, and send it to Governor Easley for his signature.

The bill would make insurers provide the same coverage for
co-payments, doctors visits and hospitalization, whether the
patient has a physical or mental ailment.

The House initially approved the bill in late May but amended it
to exempt small businesses that provide group coverage to
employees. That move was based on opponents' concerns that higher
premiums would force those companies to drop workers' benefits.

The Senate stripped that exemption, instead aiming to keep costs
down by limiting full parity to nine major mental conditions.