North Carolina Mental Health Parity Law Takes Effect
North Carolina health care insurers must provide the same amount of coverage for certain mental conditions as they do for physical ailments under a state law that took effect on Tuesday, the Winston-Salem Journal reports. The North Carolina General Assembly last year passed the "mental health parity" measure to require that nine common mental health conditions be covered at levels equal to physical conditions.
The conditions are bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, paranoid or psychotic disorders, schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, anorexia nervosa and bulimia. The law does not apply to "self-insured" employers because they are governed by federal law.
Proponents of the law say that it will increase access for mental health treatment and reduce spending over time. Opponents say they are concerned that it will increase the cost of health insurance.
Experts on Monday said that the law likely will lead to a minor increase in health insurance rates. In other states that have passed similar laws, mental health parity did not significantly increase costs. Lew Borman, a spokesperson for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, said, "There are costs, obviously, associated with this mandate, but we're anticipating it to be less than half of 1%" (Romoser, Winston-Salem Journal, 7/1).
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