FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The General Assembly passed legislation Thursday to make sure health insurance plans offered in Kentucky comply with a federal law designed to ensure the equal treatment of mental health conditions and substance use disorders.
The measure, known as House Bill 50, would do this by strengthening Kentucky’s implementation of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.
That federal law generally requires insurers to cover care for mental health and addiction just like physical illnesses.
That means health plans’ co-payments, deductibles and limits on visits to health care providers are not more restrictive or less generous for mental health benefits than for medical and surgical benefits.
“This is not about new coverage but about ensuring compliance with existing law,” Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, said before the Senate passed HB 50 by a 36-0 vote. He explained that HB 50 would simply require health insurers to file annual reports with the state on how they are complying with federal law.
“Mental health and substance use disorders are often treated differently than other health conditions by insurers, but there is no health care without mental health care,” Alvarado said. “When there is a disparity in treatment, it causes harm. Many people go without treatment for years with disparities worsening by the day. There is an average delay of 11 years between the onset of mental illness symptoms and the time most people access treatment.”
He said an average of six people die of drug overdoses and suicides every day in Kentucky.
HB 50 now goes to the governor.