Mental Health Parity
"The Civil Rights Movement of this decade is Mental Health Care quality and equality."
-- Updated May 11, 2006 --
The mission of this page is to provide links to resources and information about mental health parity.
Urgent Action Needed! Parity Law Watch.
Below Washington State mental health parity information, you will find Medicare and federal mental health parity information and resources.
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Washington State just passed a mental health parity law after eight years of hard work to get it through the legislature. But, guess what? It can be undermined in a flash by the U.S. Congress or by new legislation in Washington State.
Governor Signs into Law Washington State Mental Health Parity Legislation!
With a key Senate Committee having approved sweeping legislation that would override state insurance mandates (including state mental health parity and other laws that protect people with chronic illnesses), a grassroots outcry is needed to defeat S. 1955, a bill being falsely marketed as a solution for uninsured Americans. Please go to Contact Information for U.S. Senators to get information about how to contact your Senator.
Please visit Major Health-Insurance Deregulation Bill Going to Senate Floor at the National Mental Health Association Web site for more information.
The Seattle P-I has editorialized against S. 1955 -- Seattle P-I article posted May 11, 2006 -- Health Care: Trumping states.
Other State Efforts for Mental Health Parity Legislation.
Below are links to resources that detail state efforts to bring about mental health insurance coverage parity:
Spotlight on Mental Health Parity in New York.
Mental Health Parity in New York State -- Timothy's Law. "The 30 organizations that make up the Timothy's Law Campaign (TLC) are working towards one goal: the end of discrimination. Some people may not understand what is meant by this, but many do. Insurance companies discriminate against people with mental illness and chemical dependencies. This is often in the form of limiting services. In the case of the O'Clairs, the limit was 20 outpatient visits a year and 30 inpatient. Everybody who has ever suffered from a mental illness or chemical dependency, and everybody who knows somebody who has, knows that these limits are simply outrageous."
Older Adult Mental Health Parity Needs Our Help!
The Medicare Mental Health Modernization Act languishes in both the U.S. House (H.R.1340) and Senate (S. 646). This bill would require mental health parity in Medicare coverage. Currently, Medicare covers very little mental health care. In addition, access to mental health care for older adults is in dire jeopardy due to the current lack of geriatric psychiatry specialists and the projected severe lack of geriatric specialists. Legislation is pending and also stalled in the U.S. House and Senate that would encourage graduating physicians to choose geriatric specialties. Please use the following links to get more information on these issues and concerns.
Mental Health Parity in the U.S. Congress.
- Geriatrics and Mental Health – The Facts from the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry.
- Older Adults and Mental Health -- Chapter 5 of the 1999 Surgeon General's Mental Health Report.
- National Institute of Mental Health -- Older Adults: Depression and Suicide Facts.
- The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) prides itself on being "the leading organization for those older than 50," however, it is not doing its part to encourage either one of the above mental health parity legislative changes. Write to them and ask them to do their part!
- Older Americans Consumer Mental Health Alliance. One of OACMHA's primary missions is to decrease fear in older persons of mental health stigma by increasing public awareness and knowledge of the special mental health needs and problems of older persons, including alternative solutions and approaches to services and treatments needed by this population group.
- Older Women's League. See their mental health advocacy pages at Older Americans Mental Health Week. As the only national grassroots membership organization to focus solely on issues unique to women as they age, the Older Women's League (OWL) strives to improve the status and quality of life for midlife and older women. OWL is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that accomplishes its work through research, education, and advocacy activities conducted through a chapter network. Now in its 23rd year, OWL provides a strong and effective voice for the more than 58 million women age 40 and over in America.
"OWL welcomes the Medicare Mental Health Modernization Act of 2003, sponsored by Sen. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) in the Senate and Rep. Pete Stark(D-CA) in the House, and urges its prompt review and passage.
Current policy does not promote either understanding or the mental health of older Americans. Currently, when an older person goes to a doctor for treatment of a physical illness, Medicare pays 80% of the bill, and the patient is responsible for 20%. However, when that same person seeks help for a mental illness, Medicare pays only 50 percent of the bill, leaving 50% for the patient to pay. Because many seniors live on a fixed budget, and the Medicare program itself does not provide equal coverage for mental health diagnosis and treatment , many older Americans simply go without needed mental health care.
Ignoring mental health is expensive. Research shows that when an older person's physical illness is complicated by a mental illness like depression, they have more visits to primary care physicians, use more medications, and are more likely to have emergency room or hospital admissions. Their treatment outcomes are worse. For example, rehabilitation from a hip fracture or a heart attack is less successful and more expensive when complicated by depression."
- Alliance of Retired Americans. The Alliance is not a senior citizens social club and it is not an organization formed to sell you things. It is a way for retired union members and others to make their voices heard. We have more than 3 million members and growing with chapters and affiliates all over the country.
- The National Council on Aging. Founded in 1950, The National Council on the Aging is a national network of organizations and individuals dedicated to improving the health and independence of older persons; increasing their continuing contributions to communities, society and future generations; and building caring communities.
- The American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry (AAGP) has recently upgraded its site and it contains updated information about elder mental health which will benefit both providers and consumers.
In the case of federal mental health parity, President Bush has let his right-hand man in the Senate, Senator Bill Frist, block the federal mental health parity bill for over two years. And, that is not all. President Bush has never highlighted the Medicare Mental Health Modernization Act which would allow older adults much more access to mental health care. In addition, President Bush does not oppose federal laws that are being passed to mandate "bare bones" insurance coverage options at the state level that would exclude mental health care coverage. In other words, the president who spoke so glowingly of mental health parity in April 2002 is more than willing to let Congress pre-empt states who have passed mental health parity laws. The following are links to information about these bills.
Federal Mental Health Parity Legislation Needs Our Help!
- S.486, the "Senator Paul Wellstone Mental Health Equitable Treatment Act of 2003", a bill to provide for equal coverage of mental health benefits with respect to health insurance coverage unless comparable limitations are imposed on medical and surgical benefits. Sponsor: Sen Domenici, Pete V. [NM] (introduced 2/27/2003).
- S.646, the "2003 Medicare Mental Health Modernization Act which is a bill to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to expand and improve coverage of mental health services under the medicare program. S. 646 will repeal the 50% copayment for outpatient mental health services and replace it with the standard 20% copayment for which all other outpatient services are assessed. Under the current system, if a Medicare patient sees an endocrinologist for diabetes treatment, an oncologist for cancer treatment, a cardiologist for heart disease treatment or an internist for treatment of the flu, the co-payment is 20% of the cost of the visit. If, however, a Medicare patient visits a psychiatrist for treatment of mental illness, the co-payment is 50% of the cost of the visit. This disparity in outpatient co-payments represents discrimination against Medicare beneficiaries with mental illness.
- H.R. 4281, entitled "Small Business Health Fairness Act of 2004, has now morphed into H.R. 4279. This bill would exempt certain employers from state regulation, including state mental health parity requirements. H.R. 4281 was a resurrection of H.R. 660, passed by the House in 2003, and its reintroduction is a method the U.S. House is using to pressure the Senate into taking action on S. 545. S. 545 is the Senate's version of H.R. 660.
- To read the National Mental Health Association position on H.R. 4281, click here.
Please remind President Bush and the U.S. Senate about the President's promise of April 29, 2002 -- "Our country must make a commitment: Americans with mental illness deserve our understanding, and they deserve excellent care. They deserve a health care system that treats their illness with the same urgency as a physical illness."
Contact Your Legislators!
More Federal Mental Health Parity Information
Recent News About Federal Parity Legislation
To find the very latest news about mental health parity, we recommend that you go to the Google News Search Engine page and type into the search box the words "mental health parity" or a similar search phrase. You will get a comprehensive list of the most current articles from a large number of publications. A few recent news reports are found below.
The Federal Bills and the Senate Committee that is Holding Up Mental Health Parity Legislation
Psychiatric News Articles about Access, Affordability and Parity
Talking Points and Hot Issues: National Organization Briefing Papers.
Below are selected links to certain national think tanks and organizations who study health care issues and concerns.
Thank You for Stopping By!
- Go to the Urban Institute's recent studies on Recent Changes in Health Policy In Washington State to get a good overview of what has gone on in Washington over the last few years and where it is headed with health policy.
- Go to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) page that gives the most recent comparison of state mental health expenditures to see where Washington stood in 2001 -- 2001 Comparison of State Mental Health Expenditures.
- Go to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University to find great publications on chemical dependency issues. Specifically, I recommend the publication entitled Shoveling Up: The Impact of Substance Abuse on State Budgets.
- Families USA has great information and links about health care policy. We recommend checking Families USA often. Consider signing up for their e-mailed notices and alerts.
- Commonwealth Fund Web site. The Commonwealth Fund is a private foundation that supports independent research on health and social issues and makes grants to improve health care practice and policy. The Fund is dedicated to helping people become more informed about their health care, and improving care for vulnerable populations such as children, elderly people, low-income families, minority Americans, and the uninsured. The Fund's two national program areas are improving health insurance coverage and access to care and improving the quality of health care services.
- "A Guide to Organizing Community Forums" and other publications can be found at Community Catalyst. The guiding questions deal with several general concerns that arise when planning a forum, and each section includes brief checklists that should prove helpful during the different stages of forum organizing efforts.
- Kaiser Family Foundation is one of the most well-known Web sites for updated and comprehensive information on health care policy and prescription drug concerns.
- Private Citizen fights for openness and democratic accountability in government, for the right of consumers to seek redress in the courts; for clean, safe and sustainable energy sources; for social and economic justice in trade policies; for strong health, safety and environmental protections; and for safe, effective and affordable prescription drugs and health care.
- Best wishes, Ron Sterling M.D. (Seattle, Washington, USA)
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RON STERLING, M.D.
Copyright 2000-2007. Ron Sterling, M.D.
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