A bill that would require public health insurance providers to cover the treatment of mental and nervous disorders, alcoholism and substance abuse under the same terms and conditions as other medical illnesses has been unanimously approved by the Health Committee.

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The measure is sponsored by Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee Chairman Senator Joe Vitale and Health Committee member Senator Bob Gordon.

Vitale explained, “Long ago, we established that mental health disorders and drug and alcohol dependencies should be treated as diseases, but insurance providers in New Jersey and throughout the country have failed to get with the times. By requiring the two largest health plans for public employees to provide parity coverage for mental illnesses and alcohol and substance abuse disorders, we can make a statement that insurers need to update their policies.”

The bill would expand mandated health insurance coverage for the treatment of mental and nervous disorders and substance and alcohol abuse disorders under the State Health Benefits Plan (SHBP) and the School Employee Health Benefits Program (SEHBP). It would also require parity when it comes to the treatment of alcoholism and other substance-use disorders under the same terms and conditions applied to other diseases or illnesses.

“This bill would apply medical criteria, rather than arbitrary insurance criteria, to the treatment of all mental health disorders and substance and alcohol abuse disorders,” said Gordon. “This is about providing access to treatment for individuals suffering from alcohol and substance abuse and mental health problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, that may not have a biological catalyst.”