Thursday, January 03, 2008

Non-vote on parity is inexcusable, inexplicable

That legislation (S-807/A-2512) requiring health insurers to cover mentally ill and addicted residents of the state was not put on the agenda for a vote by the NJ Assembly defies both logic and compassion. The measure had been put under the microscope by nine state panels charged with assessing its value and its affordability. All concluded that it should be enacted.

The New Jersey Senate passed parity legislation and state Assembly was poised to do the same, with 40 co-sponsors signed on in support. For some reason, Speaker Joseph Roberts did not see fit to put the bill up for a vote. It was suggested that supporters would not compromise on it, but that was not the case - amendments were offered. It is true that some points were inviolate. The American Society of Addiction Medicine's Patient Placement Criteria, which the measure included, guaranteed that patients would receive the proper type and proper amount of treatment. That component made the bill one of the most comprehensive in the country, and so was non-negotiable. Opponents wanted more stringent utilization management for the mentally ill or addicted than is allowed for other patients. A parity bill means equality, so having different standards of management was not something that made any sense.

The tentacles of addiction reach far and wide - one in three families in the state are affected by it. Mental illness affects many lives as well. The entire state loses because this bill was not allowed to come for a vote.