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If you break your leg or need heart surgery, your insurance covers it. But that hasn’t always been true for mental illness and substance use disorders. A new 2021 law in California could improve that, broadening the list of mental health conditions insurers must cover.

In the past, state law only required treatment for nine serious mental illnesses. Even before the pandemic, more than half of Californians said most people with mental health conditions couldn’t get the help they needed. Some families even dropped private insurance to qualify for treatment in the public mental health system.

California’s new law will expand the list of conditions commercial insurers must cover. It includes medically necessary care for all mental health and substance use disorders.

During the pandemic, our nation’s mental health is getting worse. Nearly a third of people say they’re anxious or depressed.

Over and over, legislation to expand mental health coverage and enforcement in California failed. The insurance industry blocked past attempts to change the law. It says new requirements would increase consumer costs. The new law’s supporters disagree. They say it will greatly expand access to mental health treatment in the state, and make California a leader for the rest of the country.

Keep watching CalMatters.org for more in-a-minute videos about other new laws taking effect in 2021 — a smaller tally than usual given that the coronavirus pandemic dominated the Legislature’s 2020 session.

CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.