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Government News
DB Efforts Help Pass Mississippi Parity Bill
Psychiatric News
Volume 36 Number 10 page 4-4

Mississippi is the 32nd state to enact mental health parity legislation. To ensure the law’s passage, the Mississippi Psychiatric Association (MPA) and its coalition partners worked with key legislators, and Gov. Ronnie Musgrove (D) signed the bill last month.

APA President Daniel Borenstein, M.D., said in a press release, "We applaud the Mississippi legislature and Gov. Musgrove for breaking down the barriers for the people of Mississippi from receiving treatment and recovery from mental illness."

APA’s Commission on Public Policy, Litigation, and Advocacy approved funding for MPA’s advocacy efforts last month, subject to approval by the Board of Trustees.

APA’s Division of Government Relations held a one-day advocacy training session last year for MPA members and provided resource materials on parity.

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Sudha Madakasira, M.D.: "We were told by politicians that a parity bill would not pass given the opposition by key legislators." 

MPA President Sudha Madakasira, M.D., said in an interview with Psychiatric News, "We were told by politicians that a parity bill would not pass given the opposition by key legislators. We decided not to ask for full parity and met with insurance committee chairs in the House and Senate and the insurance industry. Once we agreed on the provisions, the chairs sponsored the bills and shepherded them through their chambers."

Madakasira estimated that the law, which becomes effective next January, will affect 500,000 individuals in group health insurance plans. The legislation requires employers with more than 100 employees to provide mental health coverage for "clinically significant mental illnesses." The law doesn’t list or define those illnesses.

The mental health coalition also succeeded in not having lifetime caps on mental health benefits included in the bill.

Specifically, HB 667 mandates that group health plans provide the following mental health benefits:

• A minimum of 30 days of inpatient services annually

• A minimum of 60 days of partial hospitalization annually

• A minimum of 52 outpatient visits annually

The group health plans must cover a minimum of 50 percent of the cost of outpatient visits but are not required to pay more than $50 a visit. Group health plans can opt out of the new requirements if they result in increasing the plans’ costs by more than 1 percent.

MPA lobbyist and executive director Angela Ladner told Psychiatric News, "In addition to having a 15-member mental health coalition that included the state psychological, medical, and hospital associations, we had representatives from the state department of health insurance giving us advice."

Ladner said the coalition took the department’s advice to craft a bill based on the mental health benefits in the health insurance plan for state employees. "We decided the state’s benefits were pretty good and that we could argue persuasively that everyone else should have the same benefits as state workers."

Ladner praised Mary Ann Stevens (D), chair of the House Insurance Committee and a previous opponent of parity, with meeting with the mental health coalition and agreeing to sponsor the bill.

"Once we had the insurance industry on board, she did everything in her power to ensure the passage of this legislation."

Ladner credited Senators Billy Thems (D) and Robert Huggins (R), as well as Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck (D), who presides over the Senate, with pushing the bill through the Senate.

Madakasira added that the law is a good first step toward full parity and that the mental health coalition plans to work toward having its provisions expanded. ▪

Anchor for JumpAnchor for Jump

Sudha Madakasira, M.D.: "We were told by politicians that a parity bill would not pass given the opposition by key legislators." 

MPA President Sudha Madakasira, M.D., said in an interview with Psychiatric News, "We were told by politicians that a parity bill would not pass given the opposition by key legislators. We decided not to ask for full parity and met with insurance committee chairs in the House and Senate and the insurance industry. Once we agreed on the provisions, the chairs sponsored the bills and shepherded them through their chambers."

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