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Maine Passes Parity Coverage

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Maine now has parity coverage for substance use disorders, according to a report from the National Conference of State Legislators.

The bill covers mental health disorders as well as substance use, and applies to health benefit plans covering groups of 21 or more. It was introduced on March 4, 2003, and was enacted by April 1.

This year's bill was co-sponsored by a majority of both the House and Senate, and signed by Gov. John Baldacci. A similar measure passed the 120th Legislature in 2002 but was vetoed by the former governor.

According to the state's Bureau of Insurance, parity will add between four-tenths and eight-tenths of 1 percent to insurance premiums. By shifting people who have private insurance but need Medicaid for mental-health coverage, the state will save $10 million.

“Without parity we waste money, we discriminate and we risk the health of Maine families and Maine's workforce,” Rep. Benjamin Dudley (D-Portland) said. “When the facts are considered, mental health parity is beneficial to all, but most importantly to those Mainers with mental illnesses who are all too often swept away in a flood of bureaucratic disregard.”

Rep. Dudley was the sponsor of the bill. Sen. Beverly Daggett of Kennebec County was the lead co-sponsor. The bill was supported by 17 Maine organizations making up the Maine Parity Coalition, including NAMI Maine, the Maine Psychological Association, the Maine Medical Association, MSEA-SEIU, Maine Equal Justice Partners, and the Maine Association of Senior Citizens.

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