July 3, 2006

Health Insurance

Legislators shake hands on bill creating health insurance mandate
The Business Review (Albany) - June 30, 2006by Joel Stashenko

The state Legislature will return in September to impose a new health insurance coverage mandate in New York that has long been opposed by businesses.
Legislators made a deal in the waning hours of their regular 2006 session to require, starting Jan. 1, 2007, that health care policies in the state cover treatment for mental and emotional illnesses.

State Senate Republican Majority Leader Joseph Bruno long resisted the "parity" bill, so-called because it puts coverage for mental problems more on par with the minimum state coverage mandates for physical injuries and illnesses. The Senate promised to accept the bill after mandated treatment for alcohol and drug addictions was dropped, and after provisions were worked out that sponsors said will provide state money to cover any insurance premium increases for workers at companies with 50 or fewer employees.
The methodology for how cost increases will be made up to smaller employers will be worked out by the state Insurance Department.
The agreement will require policies to cover 30 days of inpatient treatment and 20 days of outpatient treatment for mental illnesses. They include schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, bulimia, anorexia and binge eating. The bill also requires policies to cover the children of workers under age 18 who need treatment for severe emotional problems.
Assemblyman Paul Tonko said that at a minimum, $60 million to $70 million a year will be available to offset insurance premium increases for small employers due to the new coverage requirements. He argued that it will become clear to businesses over time that workers getting prompt and proper treatment for mental and emotional maladies will save employers money.
"I think we will find as we go through time that by having access to these services, you strengthen the work force, which is always an important asset for the business community," said Tonko, an Amsterdam Democrat who has been chief sponsor of the bill for nearly five years.
A study published this spring in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that premium increases were only nominal among groups of federal workers when their coverage was extended to mental and emotional problems.
The New York requirement will expire in three years, with a state study planned after two years to gauge the mandate's effectiveness and whether it should be extended.
Jason Brown, a spokesman for Gov. George Pataki, said the governor had not seen the proposed bill and would wait until he is sent an approved bill by the Legislature before deciding if he will sign it into law.
The parity bill emerged at about the time Bruno was declaring the "Fair Share for Health Care" bill dead for 2006 due to complaints from the business community.
The union-backed bill would have created a $3 per-hour, per-employee assessment on all companies employing 100 or more workers, with the money going toward health insurance coverage for all workers in the state.

It was the most-watched of a series of bills that would have imposed health coverage requirements on New York employers, from Wal-Mart to those employing only two or three people.
The only related health coverage bill to win final approval before the Legislature adjourned June 23 was a measure requiring companies employing 200 people or more to report when those workers are getting health insurance through public programs like Family Health Plus. The companies must also say how much that coverage is costing taxpayers.
Business Council of New York State analyst Eliot Shaw said that information is valuable in a serious debate about New York's 2.7 million uninsured residents.
"The most positive aspect [of the 2006 session] is the fact that they are going to give more thoughtful consideration to what we do about the uninsured rather than the anti-Wal-Mart bills we've seen," he said.
Legislators again did nothing to address top items on the agendas of the Business Council and most other business coalitions. A new group, Unshackle Upstate, emerged from western New York to advocate for changes in workers' compensation, the Scaffold Law and other statutes it says make New York among the most expensive states to do business in.
"Have we been heard? Yes," said Buffalo Niagara Partnership President Andrew Rudnick. "Did anything happen in this legislative session that makes us feel better about the way the Legislature functions and its actual recognition of upstate issues? No."

1 comment:

  1. health insurence is one helps us at the time of trouble
    so everyone should provide this


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