North Carolina took a step this week toward giving those who suffer from mental illness the same level of insurance coverage available for physical illnesses. House Bill 973 would bring North Carolina in line with many other states in the region. It exempts companies with 25 or fewer employees from the expanded requirement and many companies with 100 or more employees would be exempt because they are self-insured. That means the change will apply initially only to about one in six workers in the state. Thirty-four states already have mental-health parity. The bill now goes to the Senate, where Senate leader Marc Basnight indicates that members of his chamber support expanding private mental health coverage.