Washington state will require most insurers to cover medically necessary mental-health services at the same level as medical care, phased in over five years beginning in 2006, under a law signed by Gov. Christine Gregoire. The mandate does not apply to Medicaid, self-insured companies, businesses with 50 or fewer employees, or plans purchased by individuals. It potentially will benefit about 900,000 people statewide and increase average premiums by 1.1%, or $2.93 per member per month, according to the Washington Coalition for Insurance Parity, which supported the legislation. Twenty-nine states now have some sort of mental-health parity law, and several others have laws mandating coverage of certain mental-health services, the National Conference of State Legislatures said. A similar parity bill advanced this week in the Oregon Legislature, clearing the Senate Health Policy Committee on a 3-2 vote. -- by Laura B. Benko
New Wash. state law mandates mental-health parity
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