Local Politics

Lawmakers OK Mental Health Coverage Requirement

Posted July 13, 2007 5:06 p.m. EDT


— The General Assembly has passed a proposal that would require private health insurance plans to coverage treatment for mental illnesses.

Most government-sponsored health insurance plans already cover mental care. Many see the so-called "mental health parity" by private insurance plans as one of the most significant developments in mental health care in the past 15 years.

"This is clearly one of the largest victories we've ever had," said John Tote, executive director of the Mental Health Association in North Carolina. "When you look at what goes on in the public sector and what goes on in the private sector, to get this passed is a huge, huge victory for the mental health community."

Drug and alcohol treatment wouldn't have to be covered by insurance plans under House Bill 973.

Still, mental health advocates predict the legislation would gradually take some of the burden off public treatment centers, where uninsured people often turn for treatment.

The bill is awaiting Gov. Mike Easley's signature to become law.