Thursday, August 16, 2007


A bill that provides insurance parity to people who receive mental health services was signed into law this session. The bill, House Bill 973, requires insurance companies to cover bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, anorexia nervosa and bulimia, and three other mental illnesses the same way that they treat physical illnesses. All other mental health conditions will be covered for up to 30 inpatient/outpatient days and 30 office visits. Mental health parity has been debated in the North Carolina Legislature for 15 years. 36 other states already offer some form of mental health parity. We, as a state, still have a long way to go toward fixing mental health reform, but this bill is a start and is expected to save the state money by reducing the amount spent for public mental health services

The General Assembly ratified a bill, House Bill 265, that would create a high risk insurance pool. The pool will help those who suffer from serious illnesses and are often considered uninsurable have access to health insurance. These people are often forced to pay expensive premiums because of their illness. North Carolina is the 35th state to enact such legislation.

The General Assembly has agreed to take over the counties’ share of Medicaid expenses – estimated at $520 million this fiscal year - over the next three years. Rural counties are particularly burdened by the increasing costs of Medicaid. In addition, we decided to give counties more flexibility by allowing them to raise additional taxes for school construction, infrastructure, and other improvements. Counties can decide to raise the sales tax by a quarter of a cent or the land transfer tax to 0.6 percent with local voter approval.

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