When Gov. Christie gave his final budget address in January, he primarily focused on his plan to tackle the problem of drug addiction. Now, as part of that promise, he is pushing a plan to mandate insurance coverage for substance abuse treatment.
The legislation advanced from Senate and Assembly committees recently, but lawmakers have raised concerns about the costs of the mandate and capacity of the treatment system. Under the measure, 180 days of inpatient and outpatient substance abuse treatment would be covered without requiring prior authorization. The treatment must be deemed medically necessary by a patient’s doctor, psychologist, or psychiatrist, and insurers could review inpatient benefits for necessity after 28 days.
The New Jersey Association of Health Plans gave testimony to lawmakers about the proposal, noting that the bill prioritizes inpatient treatment, although other treatment options are more effective and less expensive. The Association also cautioned the mandate would be a significant cost to the State Health Benefits Program and would significantly increase premiums for all policy holders who buy insurance in the commercial marketplace. This would include individual, small, and mid-size employer plans. Others questioned whether the state even had enough beds to provide the treatment that this bill would mandate.
NJ Spotlight reported that although the Association of Health Plans and the New Jersey Business and Industry Association requested the bill be sent to the Budget Committee for a full financial review, staffers for Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and Senate President Steve Sweeney said it would go straight to a floor vote.