My friend and long-time Shaker Fritz, who also writes On the Fritz, has requested I publish this letter about supporting the Mental Health Parity Act of 2007, which, as of March, is scheduled for debate in this legislative session. The bill, about which you can read more at the National Alliance on Mental Health, has broad bipartisan support, and it could make a very big difference in the lives of those who require treatment for mental illness. The full text of Fritz’s letter, with information on how to take action, is below.
* * *
As someone who suffers from a severe mental illness (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), I would like all of my friends at Shakesville to urge their U.S. Senators to vote YES on S. 558, the Mental Health Parity Act of 2007 and to oppose any amendments that would weaken or undermine the bill.
The Mental Health Parity Act of 2007 is sponsored by Senators Pete Domenici, Ted Kennedy, and Mike Enzi and cosponsored by over 50 Senators. In the next few weeks, the full Senate is expected to consider this important piece of legislation that promises to end discriminatory insurance coverage of mental health conditions.
This bill will make a real difference for people like me, who now face discriminatory limitations on the coverage we need to receive treatment for mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders. The new law will require full parity for all aspects of health insurance coverage, including day/visit limits, dollar limits, coinsurance, co-payments, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums, and it includes parity for substance use disorders and out of network services.
In my case, my current health insurance plan allows me to have only 30 office visits with my psychiatrist. However, typical treatment for my illness requires weekly visits—52 a year or more. That means I must pay for nearly half of my treatment out-of-pocket. That could add up to over $5,000 a year.
Every day, people like me discover that we cannot get the mental health care we need, because our employer provided health insurance sets arbitrary, one-size-fits-all limits on mental health treatment—limits not imposed on other medical or surgical benefits. Can you imagine limiting the number of times a cancer patient can receive chemotherapy?
There is considerable opposition to this legislation coming from wingnut groups like the National Center for Public Policy Research. Of course, they believe that any possible increase in health insurance costs is unreasonable. They ignore the fact that billions of our tax dollars are currently being spent dealing with a myriad of social problems caused by the mentally ill who have no choice but to go untreated.
Please contact your U.S. Senators by visiting this web page. Ask them to vote YES and to encourage their colleagues to do the same.