DRUG TREATMENT: Bill Requires Parity
Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-MN) Wednesday introduced legislation that would require private health insurance companies already covering alcohol and drug addiction treatment to do so "at the same level" as treatment for other diseases. The "Drug and Alcohol Addiction Recovery Act of 1999" would require insurance companies covering addiction treatments to provide similar benefits as they do for other medical and surgical services, including: co-pays, deductibles, hospital stays and outpatient visits. Wellstone stressed that, like his Mental Health Parity Bill introduced earlier this year, the bill does not constitute a positive mandate, but instead prohibits discrimination among ailments. He said, "This bill will save lives and health care dollars. Addiction to alcohol and drugs is a disease that affects the brain, the body, and the spirit, but we know that treatment works. We must provide adequate opportunities for the treatment of addiction in order to help those who are suffering, and to prevent the health and social problems that it causes. To do that, we must end the discrimination of addiction treatment by health plans today." Bill supporters, including the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Mental Health Association and the American Psychological Association, agree with the senator that the initiative would save insurers' money down the road by decreasing the costs of treating diabetes, hypertension, liver damage, strokes and other ailments associated with addiction (Wellstone release, 7/28). Giving substance abuse full parity with other treatments is estimated to increase health care premiums by 0.2% overall, according to the United States Conference of Mayors' Drug Control Task Force (release, 7/21).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.