Mental Health Parity Bill Passes The Assembly

June 01, 2010
Contact: Rodney Foo @ (408) 282-8920
AB 1600 Advances to the State Senate for Consideration

Legislation authored by Assemblymember Jim Beall, Jr. to require health insurers to cover treatment of mental health disorders and addictions equal to the coverage they provide for physical illnesses and injuries passed the Assembly today on a vote of 50 ayes, 26 noes, and four not voting.

“This bill can and will help thousands of Californians who suffer from chronic mental illnesses or addictions get the medical treatment  they need to rescue their lives, their careers, and their families,’’ said Beall, D-San Jose.

Beall’s Mental Health Parity Bill, AB 1600, is more comprehensive than the Wellstone-Domenici Mental Health Parity Act of 2008 passed by Congress because it makes no exemption for employer group health plans that cover 50 or fewer workers. Unlike the federal act, AB 1600 also defines the disorders that must be treated.

AB 1600 would end discrimination against patients with mental disorders and substance abuse issues by requiring insurers to provide treatment and coverage of those illnesses, equitable to coverage provided for other medical illnesses.

Many health plans do not provide coverage for mental illnesses. Those plans that do offer coverage impose strict limits on mental health care than on other medical care. For example, a typical plan might cap lifetime mental health treatment payments at $50,000 compared with $ 1 million for other services.

“An in-depth analysis showed the bill would raise premiums by just a few cents a year,’’ Beall said. “I think that’s a small cost to pay to solve the problems generated by untreated mental health illnesses and addiction that cost American employers $23 billion in lost work days annually and $150 billion in lost productivity and taxpayer-subsidized treatment and social services.’’

Similar bills introduced by Beall have reached the Governor’s desk during the past three sessions. Each time, the Governor vetoed the bill.