Leading from the Left

Friday, May 11, 2007

No Vote Yet on Parity

The Insurance Committee in the state house did not take up the mental health parity bill as planned on Thursday. Debate on another bill lasted much longer than predicted, and the committee adjourned without hearing any other bills on their agenda.

We believe that the parity bill will be heard next week, but there are also rumors that support from Blue Cross Blue Shield might be softening. BCBS had indicated they would support parity legislation that covered mental health but not substance abuse. While those of us who want health care equity find that position frustrating (to say the least!), their support of parity for mental health services was crucial to the bill's passage.

I'll let you know how things go.

In the meantime, the State House passed a budget early this morning which included $100 million for Medicaid relief for North Carolina's counties. NC is one of only a handfull of states that requires counties to cover part of Medicaid costs. County governments have been screaming for relief from this burden for years and were hoping this would finally be the year that we got it.

While the $100 million in the house budget is better than nothing, it is still only a small portion of what's needed to help counties. Poorer counties are hit far harder than affluent counties like Orange; for example, some rural Eastern North Carolina counties spend more money on Medicaid than education. This is shameful.

There are indications that the State Senate may come up with a stronger plan that brings true relief to county governments on this issue.