Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mental Health Parity Passes!!

If part of your self-care is avoiding the negative news, then you may have also missed the BIG NEWS – On October 3rd President Bush signed into law the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. This requires most employers and insurers to cover mental illnesses just like other medical conditions covered by their plans.

With all of the media focused on the negative news that sells I missed this on October 3rd:

By a vote of 263-171, the House October 3 gave final approval to the Paul Wellstone-Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 as part of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (HR 1424).

According to NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness):
“This will mean that group health plans will no longer be able to impose limits on inpatient days or outpatient visits or require higher deductibles or cost sharing for mental illness or addiction treatment that are not also applied to all other medical-surgical coverage.”

So, for families living with the impact of an eating disorder, this is potentially great news! Who knew that there was any good news out there these days? Here are some of the details so that you can be informed when talking with your care providers and insurance companies.

Here are the details and explanation of “parity” according to WebMD, written by Todd Zwillich and Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD:
“The big economic bailout passed by Congress and signed by the president last week had an attachment. Part of the bill said insurance companies must now cover mental health and substance abuse services on "parity" with medical and surgical treatments.

Under the bill, which goes into effect in 2010, group insurance plans that cover mental illness already must now equalize its value with medical and surgical coverage. The number of covered visits, the cost of copays, and the total value of treatment covered each year would have to be on par.”

To read all of the bill go to:|/bss/110search.html| this is the Library of Congress website with the details of the bill.

David Shern, PhD, president and CEO of the group Mental Health America, called the bill's passage "a great civil rights victory."

"It recognizes that mental health disorders are every bit as debilitating, and just as treatable, as cancer and diabetes," he said.

I am so glad to see that we have people in government who can see the big picture and see that long term this is cost effective. This is what Nada Stotland, president of the American Psychiatric Assn., had to say: “Properly managing mental healthcare can reduce costs overall because people with untreated mental illness are more susceptible to physical illnesses such as heart attacks. It is not cost effective to separate mental and physical healthcare.” she said. "We cannot separate the body and the mind."

I also want to recognize our tireless supporter from MN, Jim Ramstad, an 18-year House member who is retiring at the end of this term who has fought for years to see mental health legislation become law and wanted to see this happen before he retired.

"For all practical purposes this was my last vote," he said. "It's ironic that it also, to me, is one of the most important votes I've ever cast in 28 years of public service." Thank you Jim Ramstad!

Please share your comments on this blog and on this bill.

For More Information:
Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy, and Action
David Jaffe, Executive Director

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