Small Business Health Coverage

90.3 WBHM Birmingham -- Mental illness is a biological brain disorder -- a physical illness of the brain -- a human organ, just like the heart or lungs or liver. But mental health advocates have been fighting an uphill battle to get mental health included in health insurance plans.

Thirty-four states have passed so-called mental health parity laws, that either suggest or require that health insurers include mental health services in their plans. But, advocates say, the Small Business Health Fairness Act of 2005 will undermine those efforts. Under the bill, so-called Association Health Plans - those collectives of small businesses -- would be exempt from individual state insurance regulations including mental health parity laws. WBHM's Tanya Ott talked with Jeff Baxter of the Mental Health Association of Central Alabama and Shannon Weston, executive director of the Alabama chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

The house passed the Small Business Health Fairness Act this week by a vote of 263-to-165. The Senate must still take up the measure.

National Federal of Independent Business

-- Tanya Ott, July 29, 2005


Editor's note: This is the latest story in a year-long commitment to covering mental health issues in Alabama through a project called Making Sense of Mental Health.