COLUMBUS—State Senator Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) and Sean O’Brien (D-Bazetta) today introduced Senate Bill 254, bipartisan legislation that will better ensure Ohioans have access to mental health and substance abuse treatment by prohibiting insurers from covering illnesses of the brain more restrictively than illnesses of the body.
In 2008, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) was signed into law on the federal level. Unfortunately, two years prior, Ohio created its own parity law and has not updated it to align with federal law. Ohio's outdated parity laws have resulted in a lack of mental health insurance coverage by insurers in Ohio and an ’F’ rating by the Kennedy-Satcher Center for Mental Health Equity.
"More than ever before people are taking steps to improve their lives by seeking mental health treatment," said Gavarone. "However, I have talked with many of these individuals and when trying to find a doctor or other qualified health professionals they are being told their insurer will not provide coverage."
Senate Bill 254 seeks to align Ohio’s insurance code with the federal parity law. This will ensure that Ohio’s insurers, many of which are already following federal law in other states, will treat those suffering from mental illness the same as those getting treatment for a broken bone or diabetes.
“Ohio has taken the lead on so many important issues, but when it comes to coverage for mental health, we rank in the bottom half of the country,” Gavarone said. “In the 13 years since our state’s parity law went into effect, quality of mental health care has drastically improved, but because of the failure of insurers to align with federal law, it has become significantly tougher for average Ohioans to access that care.”