NU Online News Service, March 21, 3:58 p.m. – The West Virginia state legislature has approved a bill requiring that employers offer mental health benefits equal to medical and surgical benefits under health insurance plans. The measure is awaiting the signature of Gov. Robert E. Wise Jr., who is expected to sign the measure, says a spokesperson for House Minority Leader Charles Trump, R-Morgan. Trump sponsored the measure as H.B. 4039.

After a similar measure died last year due to business opposition, the new bill provided that businesses with 25 or fewer employers could opt out of the mental health requirement or impose limits on inpatient and outpatient care if their costs for treating mental illness exceed 1% of the costs of the plan in any experience period.. Larger employers could opt out if they could show that their costs for mental illnesses exceeded 2% of plan costs.

Once signed by the governor, the measure would become effective Jan. 1, 2003.