(Springfield, IL) – Governor Pat Quinn last week signed legislation that will ensure that all health insurance policies sold in Illinois will cover substance abuse treatment, mental health care and other disorders without gouging consumers for this type of insurance coverage, heartening parity supporters.
The legislation, House Bill 1530, sponsored by State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) and State Senator Willie Delgado (D-Chicago), prevents insurers from imposing additional barriers within the policy – such as financial requirements, treatment limitations, lifetime limits or annual limits – to treatments for mental, emotional, nervous and substance abuse disorders if no such stipulations exist for other health conditions.
“When we talk about access to health care, we want to make sure that we are including all types of care,” Quinn said. “No one should be forced to forgo critical mental health care because of where they live or because their insurance charges more for the necessary treatment.”
“This landmark legislation will ensure that those who purchase health insurance in our state will now be able to seek medical attention for mental, emotional, and substance abuse treatment without having to pay for it out of pocket,” stated Delgado (D-Chicago), Chairman of the Senate Public Health Committee, the chief sponsor of the measure in the Senate.
Additionally, the bill prohibits insurance companies from charging exorbitant fees for these services or requiring consumers to pay a separate fee for the coverage of these services, according to Delgado.
“This is a momentous day for the people of Illinois,” stated Delgado. “This is the first time in our history that we are telling insurance companies that they may not discriminate against those with mental, emotional, nervous or drug related disorders.”
“With the governor’s approval of this law, employers will see decreased health care costs and increased worker productivity.” said Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association CEO Sara Moscato Howe. “Additionally, across Illinois, we will see a reduction in accidents, absenteeism and crime while building healthy parents and families.”
Research shows that patients that have completed substance use disorder treatment have been shown to reduce emergency room visits by 39%, hospital stays by 35% and total medical costs by 26%, according to Howe.
“This legislation is an important step toward bringing health insurance parity to addiction health care,” said Lang.
The new Illinois new law exceeds the requirements of the recently-enacted federal mental health parity law, according to Lang.
“Federal enforcement is a more remote, lighter touch, relying on telephone calls and mail,” said Lang (D-Skokie). “By matching state law to the federal standards, the Illinois Insurance Department can enforce the federal standards more aggressively than the federal government could by virtue of state face-to-face enforcement activities.”