By Lisa Schencker

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill Wednesday that strengthens insurance coverage for mental health conditions and addiction treatment – a measure that advocates say is one of the strongest of its kind in the nation.

Federal and state laws already prohibit insurers from covering mental health and substance use disorders at lower levels than physical medical conditions, but advocacy and other groups have expressed concerns that insurance coverage for treatment was stillgetting short shrift. They considered the issue especially pertinent given the current epidemic of opioid addiction.

The new law will bar private insurers from requiring prior authorization for medications to treat addiction and prohibit them from requiring patients to try less pricey medications for addiction before stepping up to more expensive ones. Those requirements already apply to Medicaid managed care organizations.