Mental Health Parity

February 29, 2008 Kyron No Comments

One of Katherine’s diagnoses is bipolar disorder. Even if you are uncertain of bipolar as a diagnosis for a child (and yes there is a group who doesn’t live with my daughter who thinks that bipolar in childhood is a misnomer) without question she has a mental illness disorder NOS (NOS=Not Otherwise Specified is a term frequently used in various mental illness disorders to bundle those who don’t neatly fit a specific definition for a disorder).

Because of this I think I am more acutely aware of the inequity in insurance benefits for medical needs versus mental health needs. All too often hospitalizations that Katherine needed for her mental health were cut off far more quickly than they would have been if she had been physically ill to the point where it endangered her well being. It’s unfortunate that discrimination enters this arena as well. It’s even more unfortunate that there is no parity capital Mental Health Parityin benefits because too often the cost of yo-yo admissions is likely costlier in the long run than it might be otherwise, not to even get into what this policy does to the individuals and their families when adequate care can not be obtained. That’s why I felt it important to let everyone I could about a very important bill that tentatively scheduled for vote on Wednesday March 5th.

The bill is called the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007, or HR 1424. I think that Susan Resko, the executive director of the Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation detailed it best when she wrote:

If parity is not passed this year, there is serious concern that Congress will not take the matter up again for a number of years. Because of this concern, it is vital that mental health parity pass now.

The legislation addresses the discrimination in group health plans against persons with mental health or substance use disorders. This bill would expand the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996 by prohibiting group health plans from imposing treatment or financial limitations on mental health benefits that are different from those applied to medical/surgical services. The legislation closes the loopholes that allow discrimination in the co-payment, coinsurance, deductible, maximum out-of-pocket limit and day and visit limits. It applies only to group health plans already providing mental health benefits, and excludes (as does current law) health plans sponsored by employers of fewer than 50 people.

The Senate version of the bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent on September 18th, 2007. The House must pass a bill in order for legislation to move forward.

I would urge you to call your U.S. Representative Tuesday, March 4, to request that he/she vote “Yes” on the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act, and “No” on any amendments to weaken the bill.

To locate your US Representative’s number, click here. When connected, ask for the Health Legislative Assistant. If you leave a voicemail, include your name and phone number.

Mental Health America recommends the following simple script if you are unsure of exactly what to say to your representative:

I am calling to ask that the Representative vote for H.R. 1424, the Paul Wellstone Mental Health & Addiction Equity Act. Parity is needed to end insurance discrimination and save lives.

If you’d like to read more about this life saving legislation you can check out the Campaign to Insure Mental Health and Addiction Equity . There is also a form here where you can email your individual representatives as well.

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Categories : Mental Health, Political

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