Senate District 32
Sean J. O'Brien
O'Brien Testifies on Bill to Increase Mental Health Coverage
January 29, 2020
State Sens. Sean J. O’Brien (D-Bazetta) and Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) provided sponsor testimony in the Senate Insurance and Financial Institutions Committee today on Senate Bill 254. The legislation would better align mental health insurance coverage standards in Ohio with those for physical illnesses.

“In 2008, former President George W. Bush signed a landmark federal law aimed at ending insurer discrimination against patients with mental health and substance abuse disorders,” said O’Brien. “This law has, unfortunately, not achieved its goal in Ohio due to inadequate enforcement. Our bill seeks to fix this, and ensures people with mental health issues are able to receive the same health insurance coverage as someone with a physical illness.”

The bipartisan bill would require all health plans subject to Ohio’s insurance laws to comply with the requirements of the federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) and cover mental health illnesses at the same rate they would cover bodily illnesses. It would also require insurers to submit an annual report to the state regarding their compliance with the federal law.

In accordance with the MHPAEA, the bill prohibits insurance plans from imposing step therapy and prior authorization requirements on prescriptions for substance abuse disorders and requires all such prescriptions to be placed on the lowest tier of the plan’s drug formulary.

“Especially when we consider the opioid crisis currently ravaging our state, insurance practices that limit access to treatment both endanger Ohioans and signal to those affected by mental health disorders that their health is not as important as that of someone with a physical illness,” said O’Brien.

Today’s hearing on SB 254 was its first in the Senate committee, with further committee hearings on the bill anticipated in the coming weeks. Additional information about SB 254 can be foundhere.
of terms
What is session? What is a caucus? Find out about these and other commonly used terms related to the Ohio Senate.