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May 10, 2007 (512) 463-0300

SENATE VOTES TO IMPROVE MENTAL HEALTH CARE COVERAGE

PHOTO
Senator Tommy Williams of the Woodlands speaks in support of fellow Senator Rodney Ellis' bill to bring mental health coverage up to physical coverage standards.

(AUSTIN) -- The Senate approved a bill Thursday to bring mental health coverage up to par with coverage of physical diseases or injuries. Bill author Senator Rodney Ellis of Houston says that often insurers that offer mental health coverage charge disproportionately high co-pays or premiums for mental health care compared to physical coverage. "This is not only discriminatory, but it sends the message that mental illnesses are less important than other illnesses," he said. While Senate Bill 568 would not require insurance companies to offer mental health coverage, those that do would have to offer the same quality of coverage for mental health care as they do for physical health care.

There are certain exemptions under which companies would not have to comply with this bill. The bill would not apply to employers with fewer than 51 employees or those that offer consumer choice plans. Additionally, if an insurance company can show that complying with the bill would raise premiums or costs by 2 percent in the first two years, and one percent in subsequent years, they could apply to opt out of the requirements.

Also passed Thursday was a bill that would create a fund to promote development and infrastructure construction in the state's rural areas. Senate Bill 1485, by Brownsville Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr., would create the Rural Development Fund. This fund could go for economic and leadership initiatives in the state's rural areas, and would create a comprehensive and coordinated plan for rural development.

The Senate will reconvene Friday, May 11, at 9 a.m.

Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.

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