Gov. Chris Christie, shown here in Asbury Park at an unrelated event today, announced that the state's health benefits plan for public workers will cover alcoholism and drug addiction the same as other mental illnesses starting next year.Tony Kurdzuk/The Star-LedgerMore than 200,000 public workers in New Jersey will get enhanced insurance coverage for mental illnesses such as alcoholism and drug addiction beginning next year, Gov. Chris Christie announced today.
A committee of state and union officials approved "mental health parity" on Friday for the state's second-largest health benefits plan. It means the same level of coverage now provided for a biologically-based mental illness — such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder — will apply to other types of illnesses such as alcoholism, drug addiction and eating disorders.
The expansion is expected to cost "less than $5.1 million a year" and will affect more than 217,000 current and retired workers enrolled in the State Health Benefits Program, Christie's office said in a news release today. The insurance plan covers state, county and local government workers as well as employees of New Jersey's public colleges and universities, and their dependent family members.
Along with that change, the committee approved "four new lower-cost health plan options" and a new "wellness program" that seeks to encourage healthier lifestyles by offering workers gift cards worth $100 to $250 per person every...