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Lawmakers Send the Governor Legislation Requiring Mental Health Coverage

May 13, 2004
By: Missy Shelton
State Capital Bureau

Legislation requiring insurance companies to give equal coverage to mental and physical health is on its way to the governor's desk.

Missy Shelton reports.

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Supporters of the bill say the bill is long overdue.

The Senate's Republican Floor Leader Michael Gibbons says it's time that mental illnesses be treated the same as physical ailments.

He says it's wrong to perpetuate any distinction between the brain and the rest of the body.

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No senators voted against the bill and only 14 House members voted no.

One of those was Southwest Missouri Republican Brad Roark.

He says he voted against the bill because he's concerned about what the bill will do to the cost of insurance.

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But supporters of the bill argue the cost of health care won't go up because lawmakers are requiring insurance companies to cover mental health.

Springfield Republican Representative Dr. Roy Holand is the bill sponsor.

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But Roark says the fact that one third of consumers didn't take the mental health coverage proves his point.

He says it's wrong for government to force insurance companies to provide that coverage to people who have decided they don't need it.

He says competition in the marketplace should control what coverage insurance companies offer.

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Under the bill, insurance companies will have to provide mental health coverage to all group insurance plans, even basic ones beginning next January.

Holand says that will improve the lives of people suffering from mental illness who aren't getting proper treatment now.

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But Roark says the bill goes against this counrty's free enterprise system.

He says the bill had so much support because of emotional appeals from mental health advocates.

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The bill now goes to the governor who will either sign or veto the bill.

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