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Mental Health Coverage Expanded Under Bill

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, September 24, 2008 10:23 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family, In The Workplace
Tags: Mental Health, Depression, Emotional Problems, FDA and Prescription Drugs, Head Injury, Insurance Companies

Mental health parity bill close to becoming law.

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IMAGE SOURCE:  ©iStockphoto/ homeless depressed man/ author: aurumarcus 

Congress has passed a mental health parity bill that prohibits employers from charging higher co-pays for mental health services. 

Often people seeking help for depression, substance abuse, or schizophrenia, face deductibles for those services significantly higher than other health care cost deductibles.

Federal law allows insurers to set higher co-pays or limits for mental health benefits. 

An estimated 82 million people work for employers with self-insurance, which is exempt from state laws requiring insurance companies to cover mental and physical illnesses equally.  31 million have no equal coverage.

"We've always had a stigma, sort of like mental illness is a character flaw," said Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.), who has struggled with drug and alcohol addiction and co-sponsored the House version with Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.), a recovering alcoholic, according to the Washington Post. 

Mental health issues are now seen as a brain disorder, like eating disorders or compulsive disorders.

Both houses of Congress yesterday passed the bills which exempt businesses with fewer than 50 employees, a compromise that allowed broad support from both the business community and Bush administration.  Sen. Ted Kennedy, fighting brain cancer, was a supporter of the legislation.

The House passed the stand-alone bill while the Senate folded it into a package of tax cuts.

They will have to agree on the final form to be sent to the president for his signature.  The cost is an estimated $3.4 billion over 10 years in the form of foregone tax revenue and it’s unclear whether a joint agreement can be reached before Congress recesses in a few days. #


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