Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Mental health parity now federal law

Here is another part of the banking bailout:
After more than 10 years in the making, the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act is now the law of the land. This landmark legislation requires health insurance plans that offer mental health coverage to provide the same financial and treatment coverage offered for other physical illnesses.
Here is a typical argument for the law:
The October 5th New York Times quotes Dr. Steven E. Hyman, a former director of the National Institute of Mental Health, as saying that “it was impossible to justify insurance discrimination when an overwhelming body of scientific evidence showed that ‘mental illnesses represent real diseases of the brain.’” More specifically:

“Genetic mutations and unlucky combinations of normal genes contribute to the risk of autism and schizophrenia…..There is also strong evidence that people with schizophrenia have thinning of the gray matter in parts of the brain that permit us to control our thoughts and behavior.”

The trouble with this argument is that there is no medical treatment for that thinning gray matter. Insurance works best when there are well-established ways of diagnosing and treating an illness.

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