Nedra Jack October 27, 2018

In another piece of promising Illinois healthcare newsIllinois has earned the highest score for the strongest mental health parity laws and policies in the country in a new state-by-state report. Released by the Kennedy-Satcher Center for Mental Health Equity, the report is meant to raise awareness among state regulators and insurers, as 2018 marks 10 years since President George W. Bush signed the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA).

Each state received a letter grade on their state statutes. Illinois was the only state with an ‘A’ grade (100/100) on the test of compliance with the Federal Parity Law, that asks health plans offering both medical and mental health or substance use disorder benefits to offer those benefits in parity.

“That means when you go to the doctor, your copays need to be the same, the quantitative limitations have to be exactly the same,” explained Illinois Department of Insurance Director Jennifer Hammer. Health plans that must follow federal parity include Medicaid Managed Care Plans (MCOs) and group health plans for employers with 51 or more employees.

Most states got very low scores. California and Alaska, two of the biggest states, each got an “F” with 55 and 43 out of 100 points, respectively.

Illinois’ grade is not a stroke of good luck. One step that helped consolidate the state’s position as a leader in quality mental health services? The recent bill signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Senate Bill 1707 improved the coverage of Illinois’ parity laws, as part of a larger effort to address the state’s opioid crisis. “After enactment of SB 1707, Illinois now has the strongest mental health and addiction parity law in the country,” The Kennedy Forum of Illinois Executive Director Cheryl Potts said. Illinois also started using digital tools and strategies to aid mental disorders.

Earlier in August, the state’s legislators added video-based psychiatric services on the list of standard benefits that must be covered by insurance plans.