Mental health coverage law in effect

January 19, 1994|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,Staff Writer

If it's Wednesday, then the state's new mental health care benefits law must be in effect.

Such is the saga of the on-again, off-again law that requires health insurers to offer better mental health benefits. In recent weeks, insurance companies have twice persuaded judges to delay the law's Jan. 1 implementation date, arguing that the law is too vague.

But yesterday at 4 p.m., the law went back into effect for the second time in six days.

It happened this time after insurers decided not to appeal a ruling Monday by a Maryland Court of Special Appeals panel upholding the law. The panel postponed the law's implementation until yesterday afternoon to give the insurers time to file an appeal.

Attorney Charles S. Fax, who represents the insurance companies, said his clients decided against further delay in favor of fighting the case in court on its merits.

"It's a question of allocation of resources," said Mr. Fax, of the Baltimore law firm Shapiro and Olander.

The law's implementation yesterday means that people receiving treatment for mental illnesses may be entitled to more substantial reimbursement for that treatment than they had been.

At least for the time being.

The insurers' suit to strike down the law heads back to Baltimore Circuit Court Tuesday, when Judge David Ross will consider a motion by the state attorney general's office to dismiss it. If he does not, the case will go to trial Feb. 2.

And people say health care reform is complicated.

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