(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt to require health benefits coverage for juvenile depression screenings was approved to advance by the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee on Monday.
The legislation describes clinical depression as a condition characterized by persistent unhappiness or a loss of interest or pleasure in most activities. Further, depression can negatively affect the developmental trajectories of affected youth. Major depressive disorder in children and adolescents is strongly associated with recurrent depression in adulthood; other mental disorders; and increased suicidal risk.
“Depression is associated with higher levels of stress and anxiety and can affect a teen’s personal, school, work, social, and family life, leading to social isolation and other problems,” said Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington). “Early diagnosis is essential to the effective treatment of depression in young people.”
The bill (A-1469) requires insurance coverage for expenses incurred in screening patients who are under 18 years of age for depression, including, but not limited to, a depression screening performed by a pediatrician using a nationally-recognized screening tool.
Among children and adolescents aged 8 to 15 years, 2% of males and 4% of females reported having MDD in the last year; and in nationally representative U.S. surveys, about 8% of adolescents reported having major depression. The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommends screening for MDD in adolescents aged 12 to 18 years.
“Making it easier for adolescents to receive screening and care for depression is critical to families helping their loved ones deal with symptoms,” said Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington). “Health benefits should provide coverage for juvenile depression screenings. It can save lives and help families be proactive in diagnosing and addressing depression symptoms for their children.”
The bill would apply to hospital, medical, and health service corporations; commercial individual, small employer, and larger group insurers; health maintenance organizations; and the State Health Benefits Program and the School Employees’ Health Benefits Program.
The bill will now go to the Assembly Speaker for further review.