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State officials discuss changes in health care benefits
Anastasia Tuskey
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State officials discuss changes in health care benefits

mental health and substance use disorder treatment at forum hosted by Will County

Officials from several State of Illinois agencies explained changes in health care benefits, specifically relating to mental health and substance use disorder treatment during a forum held yesterday at Joliet Junior College. The event was sponsored by the Will County Executive’s Office of Substance Use Initiatives, Stepping Stones Treatment Centers, and the HERO Group. The main topic of discussion was Illinois’s landmark Health Care Parity Law which takes effect on January 1, 2019.
“We are proud to host the state officials here today to explain to our residents what the parity law means for insurance benefits for mental health and substance use disorder treatment,” said County Executive Walsh. “Many more people in Will County will be protected by parity and it is so important they understand their insurance coverage and receive the care they need.”
Dr. Kathleen Burke, director of the county’s Office of Substance Use Initiatives, said these changes will require insurance companies to offer the same coverage for mental health and substance use disorder treatment as medical treatment.
“Illinois now has the strongest parity laws in the nation,” she said. “This new law is critical as we continue to fight an opioid epidemic that is spread across our nation. I am pleased to provide an opportunity for agency representatives to answer questions directly to people who are facing challenges in accessing care for themselves or a loved one.”
Some of the significant changes in the parity law include no prior authorization will be required to administer medically-assisted treatment and physicians will not be required to begin with the lowest dose of medication in treating individuals with mental health or substance use disorders. Further the new parity law creates reporting requirements for insurers and regulators to guarantee these claims are handled in compliance with the law.
Counselors were on site during the forum to assist people in signing up for healthcare plans during open enrollment
“This was a really great event and we at Stepping Stones were pleased to partner with the county to bring in these state experts,” said Paul Lauridsen, executive director of the treatment center. “The people in attendance learned important information about accessing their insurance benefits. As communities across the nation continue to battle opioid addiction and mental illness, these types of events are critical to helping people access care.”
For more information about the changes in parity law or to access insurance coverage, visit the website: www.getcoveredillinois.gov.
Cutline: Kristine Herman, bureau chief, Behavioral Health Department, Illinois Department of Health and Family Services. Carol West, regional outreach coordinator, Get Covered Illinois; Paul Lauridsen, Executive Director, Stepping Stones Treatment Center; John Roberts, co-founder of the HERO Group; Brian Gorman, director of outreach and consumer education, Get Covered Illinois; Alaina Kennedy, associate director, Illinois Association of Medicaid Health Plans; Dr Kathleen Burke, director of the Will County Executive Office of Substance Use Initiatives.



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