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Calif. Governor Vetoes Parity Bill

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An addiction and mental-health parity bill has been vetoed by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who cited concerns about the measure's cost.

The bill, AB-423, would have barred insurers in California from enacting coverage limitations for addiction and mental illness that differ from those in force for general healthcare conditions.

“While I share the author's interest in improving access to mental health and substance abuse services, I cannot support this bill as it would contribute to higher health care costs, potentially making coverage less affordable,” said Schwarzenegger in his veto message. “California needs comprehensive health care reform that will provide coverage for all, promote shared responsibility and make health care more affordable.”

The announcement came in the same week that Schwarzenegger vetoed a broader healthcare-reform bill sponsored by the Democratic leadership in the state legislature.

AB 423 was sponsored by Assemblyman Jim Beall, Jr., a Democrat from San Jose. “Mental health parity and treatment for substance abuse is long overdue in California,” said Beall. “It costs insurers and consumers very little and it saves lives.”

Supporters of parity say that most if not all of the estimated $109-million cost of the bill could be recouped by preventing the fiscal consequences of untreated addiction and mental illness.

Schwarzegger, who has proposed his own healthcare reform plan, urged Beall to “work with me to enact comprehensive health care reform that will provide all California access to health coverage, strengthen prevent efforts, increase access to mental health and substance abuse services, and promote affordability.” Beall responded, “Although I am very disappointed in the veto, I am encouraged that the Governor seems to agree in principle with the tenants of AB 423 and wants to work with me on the issue.  I look forward to engaging him further in this conversation.”

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