Friday, October 14, 2005

Mental Health Parity

When the body is ill, that illness is covered by insurance. The brain is a part of the body. Actually, the most important part if you consider stories such as Terry Schiavo's. The brain controls the rest of the body physically and houses the intellectual and emotional. We live in our brain, but if it gets sick, my insurance company makes me pay 3 times as much to see my 'brain doctor' as it does my family doctor. Plus there is a limit as to how many visits per year I can go to the psychiatrist or psychologist.

Why? My guesses:

  • Insurance companies claim diagnosis is too objective e.g., no blood tests.
  • Stigma - mental illness affects behavior and that can be scary.
  • The misconception that it is not a bona fide illness even though it is widely accepted in the health field as biological and/or genetic.

Mental illness can be fatal by suicide. Most mentally ill are not criminals, although most criminals have a mental illness. People with mental illness want to get better, feel good enough to work and take care of their families, and be treated with the same respect that cancer, heart, and diabetes patients get treated.

Some states have mental health parity. Ohio does not. Does yours?

Beacon Journal 10/07/05

Mental illness deserves to be treated like any other ailment.
Ohio has won a five-year, $14-million federal grant to help transform mental health services. Gov. Bob Taft announced the award Monday. The grant was worth notice. It is another step forward in what is proving to be a long and difficult road: ensuring that mental illnesses are treated with the same urgency and level of care as other diseases.
Critical to this goal is providing health insurance coverage on a par with the coverage for other physical ailments. On Tuesday, a state Senate committee suspended hearings on a bill that seeks to do just that. Once again, on the question of parity in mental-health coverage, the Statehouse is dragging its feet, presumably analyzing the potential impact, a pattern of legislative zeal that has killed one parity proposal after another during the past 18 years.
The inaction has not been for lack of awareness that mental illness is devastating. Or that effective treatment enables most patients to lead productive lives. Or that inadequately addressed, mental illness exacts a heavy toll on the health-care system, social services and families. An estimated 30 percent to 40 percent of children in the child welfare system have a mental illness diagnosis. Among the homeless, 30 percent have a serious mental illness, as does 40 percent of juveniles in the justice system.
Senate Bill 116 proposes coverage for mental illness comparable to that for other conditions. The bill is limited to mental illnesses that are biologically based (such as schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive, bipolar and depressive disorders). Further, the bill nods to businesses, its staunchest opponents, exempting those that show the coverage would raise the cost of their health insurance by more than 1 percent.
Taft has opposed mental health parity bills on the grounds they impose costly mandates. In this instance, a separate bill to cover equipment and supplies for diabetics has become the convenient obstacle that could snuff the parity bill. The shame is Ohio pays a heavier cost for the failure to act.

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