Yesterday, the U.S. Senate passed the Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act by a large margin. (Not surprisingly, U.S. Representative Paul Ryan (R-Troha's Wallet) was one of the few who voted against the bill.) The Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act, otherwise known as Mental Healthy Parity, basically would force insurance companies to cover mental illnesses on the same level as they do other illnesses. The bill is named after the late Senator Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) who was a great advocate for equity for those suffering from mental illness.
The House of Representatives have a similar bill that they have recently passed, but it would allow insurance companies to still greatly limit the diseases that they cover. The Senate's version would allow coverage for all diseases listed in the DSM-IV, which is the diagnostic guide used by psychologists and psychiatrists.
The conservatives biggest objection to the Senate's version of the bill has to deal with, what else, profits. They argue that it will cost insurers and employers more, which in turn, will pass the cost on to the employee. However, the cost of the bill would come out to be minuscule:
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that an earlier version of the House bill would increase premiums for group health insurance by an average of four-tenths of 1 percent. Some of the cost could be passed on to workers.
This bill needs to be passed, as it is, under the Senate's version. If you don't have a mental health related issue or an addiction, or know someone one close to you who has a mental illness or addiction, you are either a very lucky person, or are in total denial. The cost of untreated mental illnesses and addictions, both monetarily and socially, far outweigh, any costs that would be imposed by this bill.
Two other things of interest, as sidebars, popped out at me from the article.
One was that Bush's true colors again shown through, when he made it clear what his priorities really are (as if we didn't already know):
President Bush endorsed the principle of mental health parity in 2002. But on Wednesday, the White House opposed the House bill, saying it “would effectively mandate coverage of a broad range of diseases.”
The other was the reasons why advocates want the Senate's version to be the final version (emphasis mine):
Three factors contributed to support for the legislation. First, researchers have found biological causes and effective treatments for numerous mental illnesses. Second, a number of companies now specialize in managing mental health benefits, making the costs to insurers and employers more affordable.
Finally, some doctors say that the stigma of mental illness has faded as people see members of the armed forces returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with mental disorders.
If nothing else, maybe some good did finally come out of that damn war.