Senate Finance Advances Bill to Provide Mental Health Parity

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The Senate Finance Committee met at 3:00 p.m. today to discuss four bills, all of which were reported to the full Senate with recommendation for passage.

One bill, SB 291, requires the Public Employees Insurance Agency and other health insurance providers to provide mental health parity between mental health, behavioral health, substance use disorders and medical procedures. The bill also requires PEIA to submit an annual report and provides for rulemaking.

SB 719 addresses health care provider taxes. The bill creates a tiered tax on HMOs in a way that permits the maximization of federal dollars to be used in the state Medicaid program.

SB 740 clarifies authorized use of money allocated for the administration of the Ron Yost Personal Assistance Services Program. This bill was requested by the Division of Rehabilitation Services

SB 655 clarifies the types of operating expenses for valuing the production of oil and natural gas wells. The bill also clarifies the methodology used by the Tax Commissioner in calculating operating expenses, the confidentiality of information given to the Tax Commissioner by natural resource producers and reports the Tax Commissioner is to report to the Joint Committee on Government and Finance.

This bill raised some concerns in the committee. Senator Douglas E. Facemire, D-Braxton, expressed concerns about the costs and potential consequences of the bill, and whether the counties would benefit from the bill. A representative from the industry explained that the purpose of the bill was not to necessary lower taxes but would help West Virginia compete with surrounding states for investments.