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Advocates, including former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, press for mental health parity in insurance coverage

Hartford Courant - 3/5/2019

March 05-- Mar. 5--Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy was a key supporter of as federal law requiring health insurers to treat mental health conditions and substance abuse disorders the same as physical ailments.

On Tuesday, Kennedy came to the Connecticut state Capitol complex to push for state legislation that aims to ensure insurers are complying with the law.

Kennedy, who left Congress in 2011 and now works full time as a mental health advocate, said there's still a great deal of stigma around addiction and other brain diseases. "Are you assuming that addiction is something people can will their way out of, just as if they could will their pancreas to secrete more insulin?" he asked. "We have a bio-chemical illness and we are talking about age-old myths that have to be smashed through the enforcement of an insurance law...that's the best way we have now to break this logjam."

House Bill 7125 would require health insurance companies to submit to the General Assembly an annual report concerning parity for mental health and substance use disorder benefits. It would also require insurers who provide prescription drug coverage to include drugs that treat substance abuse disorder.

"We can no longer afford to treat behavioral health and physical health as two different things," Rep. Sean Scanlon, co-chairman of the legislature's insurance committee, said at a press conference on Tuesday. "We need to ensure there is parity for physical and behavioral health. We can do that by requiring insurance companies in the state to submit a report to us each year.

"We have great laws on the books in Connecticut already when it comes to mental health parity," Scanlon said, adding "we don't have a mechanism to know whether or not they are being enforced and that is what this bill is all about today."


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