Insurers, Mental Health Advocates Discuss Anticipated Cost Increases with New Kansas Parity Law
As Kansas prepares to expand mental health insurance coverage in January to some 90,000 employees and retirees through a mental health parity law, insurers continue to debate whether mental health parity will increase their costs, the Topeka Capital-Journal reports. About 25% of the 90,000 current and former state employees already were offered mental health parity through managed care plans, with less than a 1% increase in the state's insurance costs, so officials estimate that further expansion will not substantially increase costs. Graham Bailey, director of communications and public relations for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, said that the insurer, Kansas' largest, does not necessarily have a position for or against mental health parity, mostly because "it is unknown at this point how much offering such a benefit would cost," the Capital- Journal reports. Bailey added, "Insurance companies are not looking to hold back benefits from somebody. If we could give all of our people an additional benefit tomorrow that would not have a negative effect on the cost of health insurance, we would do so. But what we all have to be aware of is if everyone has everything, the product will be too expensive. So we have to start making decisions as to what benefits people want in their health insurance contracts." But Elizabeth Adams, executive director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, said that 34 states have implemented mental health parity and "the cost increase is not significant enough to be prohibitive." She added that implementing mental health parity is the "right thing to do." Dub Rakestraw, executive director of Family Service and Guidance Center of Topeka, Inc., indicated that the parity law may increase access to care, pointing out that for-profit mental health facilities will "spring up" if insurers pay for such treatment (Sodders, Topeka Capital-Journal, 11/19).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.