Turner Bill To Provide Equity In Mental Care Treatment Passes Senate

TRENTON – The Senate passed legislation sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner today that would ensure that patients undergoing mental health treatment and their families would see the same level of charity care relief as patients receiving non-mental health treatments.

“When individuals seek medical treatment for an illness, our laws should not discriminate between mental and non-mental illness,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “The State’s charity care formulas currently do not cover both the mentally ill and non-mentally ill equally. We must break down these artificial barriers and making sure that mental illness is seen as what it truly is – a medical condition that often has a known treatment.”

Senator Turner’s bill, S-880, would amend current law to provide that a mentally ill patient or a parent of a patient under the age of eighteen would be liable to contribute toward the cost of the patient’s treatment and related expenses incurred by a psychiatric facility based on the sliding scale fee schedule established for charity care. The bill would also provide that the Department of Human Services or a county adjuster would make a determination on the amount the patient or parent would be liable to contribute based upon their financial circumstances at the time of the patient’s admission to the facility.

The bill also provides for shared assets of married patients to be split for the purposes of determining liability and that the share assigned to the non-patient partner would be immune from liability for care costs. Additionally, the bill would authorize the department to discharge all previous institutional liens for the cost of treatment, maintenance and all necessary and related expenses incurred by a psychiatric facility on behalf of a mentally ill patient.

“With health care costs on the rise, we must be committed to giving all New Jersey residents access to the health care they need without fear of putting their family’s financial well-being at risk. No New Jersey family should be denied the American dream of owning a home, sending their kids to college, and having a comfortable retirement because of health care costs,” said Senator Turner.

S-880 passed by a vote of 35-0. It now goes to Governor’s Codey’s desk for his approval.