Assembly Passes Bill Requiring State Employees To Receive Coverage For Mental Health Treatment

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TRENTON — By a vote of 51-20-3, the full Assembly on Thursday granted final legislative approval to a bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats requiring health insurers to provide the same levels of coverage for a broad array of mental illnesses and substance abuse addictions as they do for treating other diseases.

The measure (A-1665) would expand mental health insurance coverage by requiring the State Health Benefits Program (SHBP) and the School Employees’ Health Benefits Program (SEHBP) to provide coverage for non-biologically based mental health disorders included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. New Jersey enacted a law requiring health insurers to cover biologically-based mental health in 1999.

The bill would also require the SHBP and the SEHBP to broaden coverage for substance abuse treatment to include inpatient programs, outpatient care, detoxification and treatment by a physician or other licensed healthcare professional.

“We must require insurers to provide coverage to individuals suffering from drug addiction and alcoholism” said Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “The time to act is now. It is inexcusable to delay coverage while putting at risk the lives of thousands of New Jerseyans who are suffering from addiction.”

The measure now heads to the Governor’s desk for consideration.

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