Buckeye State House Snubs Taft on Health Mandate Ban

February 10, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Despite pleas from Ohio Governor Bob Taft to hold off on any new health-care mandates on business, the Buckeye State's House approved a mental health parity bill.

The 52-40 vote came one week after Taft’s call for a moratorium on all health-care insurance requirements on Ohio employers in his State of the State address, the Toledo Blade reported.

“You can use your vote today to stand up for a symbol, that symbol being that ‘I’ll oppose all mandates,’ or you can use your vote today to do what you know in your heart is right, to stand up for those who can least stand up for themselves,” said the bill’s sponsor, Representative Lynn Olman.

From here, the bill faces a difficult path in the state Senate, where President Doug White (R., Manchester) has pledged to honor Taft’s moratorium request. Opposition in the House focused largely on the potential cost to midsize and smaller employers, since most large companies fall under federal law and would be exempt.

“(Taft) believes that this is a well-intentioned bill, but in our current economic climate, as we fight for jobs, it could have the unintended consequence of employers dropping coverage or employees being asked to pay for a greater share of their coverage because of the new costs.” Taft spokesman Orest Holubec said, according to the Blade.

The parity bill, opposed by business groups such as the National Federation of Independent Business, would require all policies over which the state has authority to cover a handful of major, biologically based mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and severe depression. The final version of the measure that got though the House excluded mandated coverage for drug and alcohol addiction after it became clear there were not enough votes.