Earlier this year, bipartisan sponsors in the Ohio legislature introduced H.B. 170 (Coverage for Autism), which would require health plans to cover autism treatment. Currently, in Ohio, coverage under health plans extends only to diagnosis. H.B. 170 is modeled on Ohio’s existing mental health parity law, which requires that health insurers cover diagnosis, treatment and care of seven biologically based mental illnesses.

The push for parity in the treatment of mental health in Ohio and other states mirrors that at the federal level, where on October 10, 2007, seven months after it was first introduced, H.R. 1424 (the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007), was recommended for consideration by the House as a whole. The House bill, which would take effect in January 2008, requires equity in coverage by group health plans for mental health and substance-related disorders. The House Bill exempts small employers (defined as having 50 or fewer employees) and calls for group plans to cover the same mental health and substance-related disorders that are covered under the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program.

A similar bill has already been passed by the Senate, S. 558, and differs from the House version by limiting coverage to disorders as defined under the relevant group health plan or applicable state law. The Senate’s version, if passed into law would take effect a year after its enactment.

We will continue to monitor the developments of mental health parity laws at InsureReinsure.com.