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910419 tn?1289487327

your opinion on the NY Times article?

I was wondering on what you guys think of the proposed mental health parity, as it would include most(?) of our treatments.

The link is http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/10/health/policy/10health.html?src=un&feedurl=http://json8.nytimes.com/pages/national/index.jsonp but here's the article:

Fight Erupts Over Rules Issued for ‘Mental Health Parity’ Insurance Law
By ROBERT PEAR
Published: May 9, 2010

WASHINGTON — A huge fight has erupted over rules issued by the Obama administration to enforce a 2008 law that requires equal insurance coverage for the treatment of mental and physical illnesses.

The fight offers a taste of the coming battle over rules to remake the health care system under legislation pushed through Congress by President Obama.

Insurance companies and employer groups are lobbying the White House to delay and rework the rules on “mental health parity.” Insurers and many employers supported the 2008 law, but they say the rules go far beyond the intent of Congress and would cripple their cost-control techniques while raising out-of-pocket costs for some patients.

Advocates for patients generally support the rules, saying they will eliminate many forms of insurance discrimination against people with mental illness. The rules are also supported by the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association and House Democrats, most notably Representative Patrick J. Kennedy of Rhode Island.

The goal of the law is to abolish discriminatory insurance practices frequently applied to coverage for the treatment of mental health disorders and substance abuse. Under the law, insurers cannot set higher co-payments and deductibles or stricter limits on mental health benefits than they set for the treatment of physical illnesses like cancer and diabetes. For decades, such disparities have been common.

Insurers and employers agree that the law prohibits them from setting numerical limits on hospital inpatient days and outpatient visits for mental health services if they do not impose such limits on other types of medical care.

But insurers say the Obama administration went overboard when it tried to regulate “nonquantitative treatment limits.” These include the techniques used by insurers to manage care, the criteria for selection of health care providers and the rates at which they are paid.

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, Aetna and other insurers have urged the federal government to drop this aspect of the rules. The purpose of the law was to ensure parity in benefits for patients, not “parity in provider reimbursement,” said Justine Handelman, executive director of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

But Carol A. McDaid, a lobbyist for a coalition of mental health advocates, said, “Patients are not getting access to mental health care because many insurers are not paying enough to cover the cost of services.”

This may have three consequences for patients and their families, advocates say. Patients may be unable to find mental health experts in their health plan’s network of providers. If they go outside the network, they typically pay more. And if they cannot afford it, they may not receive treatment at all.

The American Psychiatric Association said that nonquantitative treatment limits, though less visible than limits on the number of doctor visits or hospital days, could be more insidious.

Dr. James H. Scully Jr., chief executive of the association, said some insurers had tried to “circumvent the law” by “imposing new requirements for prior authorization and the submission of treatment plans for mental health services where there were no comparable requirements on the medical-surgical side.”

Insurers strenuously object to one provision of the rules that requires them to maintain a single deductible for all medical and mental health services combined. This is a significant departure from the industry’s current practice of separate deductibles.

As a result of the change, insurers say, many mental health patients will face higher out-of-pocket costs because the combined deductible will almost surely be higher than the current one for mental health services alone.

But in a letter to the administration last week, leading House Democrats said Mr. Obama was right to prohibit separate deductibles. The law, they said, was adopted to end such inappropriate distinctions between medical and mental health care services.

A number of companies like Aetna, Magellan Health Services and ValueOptions specialize in managing mental health benefits.

In issuing the new rules, the Obama administration praised the work of such companies, saying they increased the use of mental health care while holding down costs.

But Pamela B. Greenberg, president of the Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness, which represents these companies, said the new rules would “hamstring” their ability to use the tools that have proved effective in managing mental health benefits.

In a suit over the rules, Magellan and other companies said the concept of nonquantitative limits was “boundless and ill defined” and would reach virtually every policy and procedure used to manage mental health benefits.

One premise of the law is that mental illnesses often have a biological basis and can be treated as effectively as many physical ailments. But insurers say it is impossible to use the same techniques in managing the treatment of colon cancer and schizophrenia, or heart failure and major depression.

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thoughts?  Feel free to discuss passionately, but be respectful of others.

~Dame
4 Responses
1167245 tn?1353882100
This is a big, important issue, and I think it reflects the general view of mental illnesses at a societal level. There are advocates on one side, who believe that mental health problems are just as legitimate and real as physical health problems, and on the other side, there are still those who believe that mental illnesses should be lower priority (or worse yet, mental illnesses are simply weaknesses and personality flaws). The general public is not well educated on medical issues or policy, let alone mental health issues and policy. This is something that needs to be addressed alongside the changes occurring in Washington. Hopefully, better education and awareness building can lead to a better understanding of the reality of mental illnesses and how important it is to not discriminate when it comes to treatment. Until then, I suppose we just need to hope that advocates in the political arena can pull for parity successfully while the rest of us catch up.  

I was lucky enough to meet with someone who heads a national suicide prevention network in Washington DC a few months ago, and we spoke about how even though the success of the Mental Health Parity Act was a monumental step forward, there is still a very long way to go to achieve complete and true parity. To be perfectly honest, I'm not entirely up to speed on the intricacies of insurance companies and their policies, but I have been trying to keep up with the current push for health care reform. I'm hoping to get involved with advocacy work soon, so I'm trying to educate myself. This article points out that there are still inequalities in care despite the passage of the MHPA, and that there very well may still be inequalities when the reformed health care system is put into practice. This is a troubling concept, but I think I need to do some more personal research before I say anything else. Good find, thanks for posting this!

Also, did you know that Rep. Kennedy has bipolar disorder?
952564 tn?1268372247
Well, it would be nice if we had equal coverage for mental illness as physical illness. It would also be nice if we could actually see any doctors for less than $15,000 a year to the insurance company, plus co-payments. But who knows what will happen. In the end I think this country is going to end up just like Medeival Europe. You will have your wealthy elite, and your impovrished, and nothing in between. In the U.S.A. we have very low healthcare based on the other industrialized nations. People die waiting in the ER, we have the highest mortality rate for women in child birth, the highest death rate of children under the age of 5.... and so on....

A lot needs to be changed, but since it is all about the all mighty dollar, I don't see much hope for anyone.
910419 tn?1289487327
What an awesome opportunity for you! I'd love to have been able to meet with somebody like that.

That's very smart of you, to not say something definite when you're not fully up to speed on all the facts. Advocacy work sounds very rewarding, maybe I should look into seeing if I could do anything like that from home.

I'm sorry for him that he 'gets' to deal with bi-polar, but also grateful that he's somebody who will really "get it" and therefore fight for equal rights.

585414 tn?1288944902
If I had any information on where to write I certainly would be willing to. I think its something we all should take a stance on. I had always advocated to have the Mental Health Parity law enacted when I did consumer advocacy work (in the past before I resigned due to my physical disability) and I certainly want to make sure the law remains intact.
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