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Archive for Thursday, January 18, 2001

Graves doubts parity bill will pass

Governor says he backs mental health coverage, but won’t push for it

January 18, 2001

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— Gov. Bill Graves said Wednesday that he doubted lawmakers would approve a bill this legislative session requiring insurers to provide mental health coverage.

Graves said he supports so-called "mental health parity," but at this point he doesn't plan to push for such a bill. He said, however, that could change later in the session.

He said a sizable contingent of lawmakers wanted to study the issue more despite the fact similar legislation was law of the land in 32 other states.

"If you were asking me to speculate for you, I would think it's still unlikely it's going to pass this session," Graves said.

Mental health advocates said they were disappointed by Graves' comments.

"It's imperative to have the governor and (House Speaker Kent Glasscock, R-Manhattan) behind mental health parity before we can get it," said Amy Campbell, a lobbyist for the Kansas Mental Health Assn.

The proposal, sought by Sen. Sandy Praeger, R-Lawrence, and Democratic legislative leaders, would require that private insurers regulated by the state provide the same kind of coverage for mental illnesses as they do for physical ailments.

Praeger pushed for the bill last year, and it won Senate approval. But the measure was blocked in the House by Insurance Committee Chairman Robert Tomlinson, R-Roeland Park.

The measure is opposed by the insurance industry, which says providing the coverage will raise premiums for all policyholders and force some people to drop insurance.

Recently, the state started providing mental health coverage in its health care plan, and Tomlinson has said he wants to analyze a year's worth of data on its effects on premium rates.

But mental health advocates say the data are already in from other states and another group of state of Kansas employees who already received mental health coverage.

The cost of insurance rose less than 1 percent because of the coverage, Campbell said.

Campbell said she was surprised that Graves would say mental health coverage for state employees is OK "but parity for the public will have to wait."

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