CALPERS: Voices Support for Senate’s Mental Health Parity Bill
Despite its potential to raise premiums, CalPERS voted last week to endorse SB 468, which would require "coverage for diagnosis and treatment of all mental illness under the same rates, terms and conditions that apply to medical coverage," the Sacramento Business Journal reports. "The board made it very clear that the desirability of expanding coverage for mental health, when weighed against some additional cost, is simply the right thing to do," said CalPERS spokesman Bill Branch. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles), is a more comprehensive version of an Assembly bill that would require coverage for "severe mental illness' among adults and 'severe emotional disturbances' among children," which CalPERS backed earlier this year. According to CalPERS estimates, the bills would increase insurance rates by between 1.7% and 7.2% -- increases California Chamber of Commerce Vice President Jeanne Cain warned "will be onerous to small employers." She said, "Unlike PERS, our small employers don't have the luxury of taxing Californians for the cost increase. At some point, health insurance will no longer be purchased." The California Association of Health Plans, which estimates the Assembly bill would raise premiums by between 1.5% and 6.5%, expressed similar concern, saying that small employers and those purchasing individual insurance "won't have any mental health coverage because they won't have anything," and adding that "for every 1% increase in the cost of health insurance, 40,000 Californians lose their coverage." Currently, legislators are considering exempting small businesses from the measure, and Gov. Gray Davis (D) is expected to "be more open to the idea" than his predecessor, Gov. Pete Wilson (R), who vetoed similar legislation last year (Robertson, 5/31).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.