NJ definition of ‘mental illness’ outdated for insurance purposes, advocates say
New Jersey gets an "F" in a new national survey from Parity Track, an advocacy and leadership organization, for lack of parity when it comes to mental health insurance benefits.
New Jersey was among 31 states to receive a failing grade. Phillip Lubitz, advocacy director for NAMI-NJ, the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said one of the reasons why New Jersey failed is because the state has a limited definition as to what constitutes mental illness. The law leaves out a number of important mental illnesses such as eating disorders and post traumatic stress disorder.
He also said New Jersey does not actually mandate that insurance companies must cover behavioral health disorders, mental health treatment and addiction treatment.
The coverage of treatment of mental illness and addiction must be the same as treatment for other serious illnesses such as heart disease and cancer. Lubitz said in New Jersey there is no way to tell if those provisions are being enforced.
But there's a bill working its way through Trenton that would expand the definition of behavior health services in New Jersey. Lubitz said if it passes, New Jersey would get an "A" and be one of the leaders in the insurance coverage for the treatment of mental illness and addiction.
New Jersey's law is restricted to only the most serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression, said Lubitz. But he said there's a whole range of mental health conditions that are disruptive to people's lives that the law does not cover. Some of those conditions also include anxiety, alcohol and drug abuse, autism and regular depression.
Lubitz said New Jersey is burdened by an outdated definition of mental illness in the existing relevant law.