Wow, this was a shocker when it came across the news feed. Apparently Senate proponents of mental health parity had only one legislative vehicle left to carry their bill this year…the mortgage industry bailout bill! What is mental health parity you ask??? Well, according to the Associated Press:
“Currently, insurance plans routinely require mental health patients to pick up more of the initial costs of their care through higher deductibles and co-payments. Other times, insurance plans have stricter limits on how often patients with mental problems can see their doctors.”
Specifically, the bill would make coverage the same whether the patient had a mental or physical problem and…
“…apply to health plans that cover more than 50 employees – potentially reaching 113 million people nationwide.”
Parity is a good idea for many reasons. First, a more mentally healthy workforce is a better workforce. Second, it will help put mental health care on a par with physical health care and reduce some of the stigma still prevelant in the population. Still, it had it’s detractors. Anyone know who??? Of course, our friends at big insurance who successfully lobbied so the
legislation does not mandate that group health plans cover mental health or addiction treatment. But if they do, the coverage must be equitable with other medical coverage.
Now, according to the AP, they (insurance companies) support the legislation.
For those not following all this drama, the legislation has been negotiated and renegotiated for almost seven years. It even came up for a vote a time or two. Now that all sides agree, it should pass, but the authors lacked a way to get it in front of the entire Senate. So, in a common strategic move, they have tacked it on to the mortgage bailout bill, which passed the Senate on Wednesday, and is up for a House vote today. So, despite how one may feel about the current mortgage mess, if you are a supporter of parity, you may want to support the bailout bill and encourage your Representative to as well.
Post updated here.