Gov. Christie’s legislation mandating insurance coverage for substance abuse treatment is now law. The measure moved at a lightning-fast pace, from introduction on Jan. 30 to the governor’s signature on Feb. 15.
Under the new law, health plans must cover the first four weeks of inpatient or outpatient substance abuse treatment without insurance authorization. If more treatment is deemed medically necessary after that, an additional six months of treatment would be required to be covered. These rules would apply to insurance plans regulated by the state, including public employees, teachers, and those obtained as individuals or through small or medium-sized businesses.
Statewide, the law also mandates that doctors can prescribe only an initial five-day supply of opioid drugs, which is decreased from the current 30-day supply maximum. A prescription extension would be allowed after a second patient consultation. Patient and doctor education and training about the risks of these drugs would also be required.
NorthJersey.com reported a quote from Assemblyman Jay Webber, the only legislator who voted against the bill: “The sponsors have no idea how much the bill is going to cost taxpayers, and they have no idea how much the insurance mandate will increase the cost of health insurance in the state. A mandate like this will increase premiums, and so we’re going to have fewer people with health insurance at all.”
Other critics, such as physicians and insurance company representatives, have raised concerns about the law’s one-size-fits-all approach and whether it will even help address a complex, layered problem in the state.