Coalition Develops Strategies for State Parity Efforts

A group made up of key members of national addiction organizations has been working for the past year on developing strategies to help states pass addiction parity legislation, Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Weekly reported Jan. 8.

The aim of the National Coalition to Increase Access and Parity for Addiction Treatment is to offer technical assistance and mobilize speakers and advocates to convince state legislators of the importance of parity legislation.

Parity legislation would eliminate the gap in coverage levels between general health care and behavioral health.

According to a recent survey conducted by the National Conference of State Legislatures, 38 states identified addiction parity as a priority in 2001. The survey found that only five states have enacted full addiction parity to date, however.

Obstacles blocking passage include the notion that parity would substantially increase health-care expenditures and impose fiscal burdens on businesses and insurance companies.

The coalition is committed to addressing these obstacles by distributing materials on effective parity and arranging for national leaders to talk about reports that show that unlimited addiction benefits under managed care do not significantly increase costs.

“We can give them the organizational tools they need to build strong coalitions to pass legislation,” said Jeffrey Blodgett, coordinator of the Alliance Project and a member of the coalition. “These are rough legislative fights: there is always strong opposition, some very well-financed. These efforts require a lot of planning and forethought.”

Currently, the coalition is targeting seven states where parity is needed and grassroots support is strong. The states are Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, New York and Wisconsin.

The coalition has also developed core principles for parity legislation. These principles state that comprehensive parity legislation should cover deductibles, outpatient visits, residential or inpatient treatment days, and medications.

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