Archive for Saturday, January 20, 2001

Mental health parity bill misunderstood, chairman says

Parties disagree on adequacy of data

January 20, 2001


— The chairman of the House Insurance Committee says critics of his mental health bill don't understand it.

Democrats are pushing a proposal to mandate equal insurance coverage for mental and physical health, and some Republicans want a study of the financial effect on Kansans. The Senate passed a similar bill last year, but it died in the House committee.

Chairman Robert Tomlinson, R-Roeland Park, said Friday his bill is the same or nearly the same as the Senate-passed bill.

Democrats say Tomlinson's bill postpones equal mental health coverage for a year of unnecessary study.

"The bill last year would have required state employees to have the coverage and required the study to be done," Tomlinson said. "The time frame is the same."

Insurance Commissioner Kathleen Sebelius said the state has all the data it needs to approve the bill.

"As for getting them information, that could be done tomorrow. I don't know what other data we need to move forward," Sebelius said.

Tomlinson disagrees the data are sufficient, suggesting Sebelius' position on mental health coverage is politically motivated. Sebelius, a Democrat, has said that for state employees, mental health coverage appears to have raised health insurance 1.5 percent.

"The data on the Kansas experience is incomplete," Tomlinson said. "In March of next year, I predict that we will find out our insurance costs are higher than 1.5 percent."

He added, "I want to consider what becomes of the 3,000 women and children that will go without insurance if rates go up 1.5 percent."

Senate President Dave Kerr, R-Hutchinson, wondered why Sebelius wasn't sharing her information.

"If she has information that is that complete and that compelling, then I would suggest she ought to bring it over and show it to us," Kerr said.

The insurance commissioner's office did deliver its most recent information from the Kansas Health Care Commission to Tomlinson on Friday afternoon, said spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran Basso.

"When we walked over the data, the same report was already sitting on his desk," Basso said.

Tomlinson said the data convinced him that a study was needed.

"It stinks. It's not even remotely close to being able to estimate what it would cost not even close," he said.

The House Insurance Committee is scheduled to discuss and vote on the bill Tomlinson supports on Tuesday.

The committee heard testimony this past week from patients whose insurance does not cover their medications.

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