Stronger State Mental Health Parity Bill Signed into Law

April 13, 2019

Autism New Jersey secures amendments to preserve benefits and expand protections for autism community

On April 11th, 2019, Governor Murphy signed into law a bill (A2031/S1339) that amends existing state law to enhance enforcement and oversight of mental health parity. Under the federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, mental health services must be covered under the same terms and conditions as provided for medical and surgical services under the contract. Yet, denials of and reductions in coverage for mental health conditions (including autism) are regular occurrences for families and providers.

Securing amendments

The bill, as it was initially drafted, inadvertently removed some existing protections that benefit the autism community. Autism New Jersey, in partnership with attorney Jodi Bouer of Bouer Law, LLC., worked with the sponsors to amend the bill and ensure that these existing protections were preserved. Without these efforts, the autism community risked losing protections that currently exist for small group plans, individual plans, and under the current the New Jersey Biologically Based Mental Illness (BBMI) Mandate.

Had Autism New Jersey not intervened, the autism community could have seen the return of the $36,000/year dollar cap, the age cap of 21 years, and session limits, as well as fewer types of medical services covered. Autism New Jersey also advocated for changes to the bill to ensure that provider qualifications were not limited to only licensed practitioners. This proposed requirement could have excluded Board Certified Behavior Analysts from providing medically necessary services.

Stronger enforcement

This new law requires insurance companies to submit annual reports on their compliance with the parity law to the Department of Banking and Insurance (DOBI), and then DOBI must file an annual report to the Legislature outlining its oversight of the law.

Autism New Jersey expresses its gratitude to the bill’s sponsors Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19), Senators Kean (R-21) and Vitale (D-19), and Assembly members Vainieri Huttle (D-37), Lampitt (D-6), Danielson (D-17), Downey (D-11), Quijano (D-20), and Jasey (D-27) for hearing our concerns and advancing legislation that meaningfully benefits the autism community.

Our sincere thanks to Jodi Bouer for her work in analyzing the bill and crafting amendments for legislators’ consideration. For more information on this bill or any questions about our Public Policy initiatives, contact Public Policy Director, Eric Eberman at eeberman@autismnj.org.