Center gives Illinois perfect score for mental health, substance use disorder parity laws

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois came out ahead of every other state in a new state-by-state report of mental health and addiction parity laws.

Typically, when Illinois is compared to other states for financial health, it’s among the worst. When compared to other states for taxes, it’s among the most expensive. Illinois even leads the country in having the most people leaving for other states and the worst credit rating. But The Kennedy-Satcher Center for Mental Health Equity gave Illinois an “A” grade for mental health parity, the highest grade in the nation.

“In advance of the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Federal Parity Law, we examined how states enact strong parity statutes in order to ensure that state regulators have a full set of tools to make parity a reality and to hold both health plans and state officials accountable,” the report card said.

Illinois Department of Insurance Director Jennifer Hammer said it’s rewarding for Illinois to get the recognition. She said mental health and substance use disorder parity means your insurance company is required to treat mental health services the same as medical and surgical benefits.

“So that means when you go to the doctor, your copays need to be the same, the quantitative limitations have to be exactly the same,” Hammer said. “You can’t pay $40 for a visit for mental health and only $20 for a physical health visit.”

A new Illinois law signed this summer by Gov. Bruce Rauner, Senate Bill 1707, requires insurance companies to treat mental health and substance use disorder treatments equally and strengthens the state’s ability to protect consumers.

“After enactment of SB 1707, Illinois now has the strongest mental health and addiction parity law in the country,” The Kennedy Forum of Illinois Executive Director Cheryl Potts said. “By increasing transparency and accountability in the coverage of mental health and addiction treatment, Illinois has built a solid foundation to improve health plans’ compliance.”

Illinois scored 100 out of 100 in the Kennedy-Satcher Center for Mental Health Equity state report card. That A grade was the best in the country followed by Tennessee with a C grade, or 79 out of 100. Many states got “F” grades.

Hammer said Illinois’ grade shows the hard work the Rauner administration has done to ensure mental health and substance use disorders are treated the same as other medical conditions.

“With a struggling budget, financial situation, with continued uncertainty out of Washington, and as our department stayed focused on mental health, behavioral health, opioid addiction, we focused our current staff, we didn’t have to upgrade any of the staff, we focused our current staff and came through with an A grade,” Hammer said.

Hammer said the Rauner administration’s focus on mental illness in the overall health of an individual is also crucial to the state’s federal waiver bringing in $2 billion from the federal funds for state pilot programs to make such treatment more accessible and modernized.

“Thirteen state agencies worked with health care advocates to develop a plan to improve delivery of mental health and addiction services,” the governor’s office said in a statement.

Illinois’ report card from Kennedy-Satcher said nearly 1 in 6 adults have mental illness and 1 in 7 adults with mental illness are uninsured, both in line with the national average. For young people, 1 in 13 has a mental illness in Illinois, slightly below the national average of 1 in 12, while 1 in 13 has private insurance that does not cover mental health, in line with the national average.

The report card said 51 percent of residents in Illinois are covered by employer-based health insurance, slightly above the national average of 49 percent.


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