A bill that would force employers to provide mental health and addictions treatment coverage on par with medical conditions will be debated again this week. I say again because parity as a concept has been debated for a decade. It appears that this bill or something akin to it (HR 1424; SB 558) might pass this time around.
WashingtonWatch.com has this description:
Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007 – Amends the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), the Public Health Service Act, and the Internal Revenue Code to prohibit treatment limits or the imposition of financial requirements on mental health and substance-related disorder benefits in group health plans which are not similarly imposed on substantially all medical and surgical benefits in any category of items or services under such plans.
Directs the Comptroller General to study the effect of the implementation of this Act on various aspects of the health care system, including the cost of and access to health insurance coverage, the quality of health care, Medicare, Medicaid, and state and local mental health and substance abuse treatment spending, and spending on public services.
I favor this bill. Families are often frustrated in their efforts to care for a family members with a mental or emotional disorder due to inconsistent and inadequate insurance coverage. With inadequate coverage, very few people can afford to pay for treatment of chronic disorders. Psychiatric disorders are major causes of diability but with adequate care, some diabilities can be addressed in an effective manner. Even with a significant mental disorder, people can continue to work productively if they have proper care.
For those inclined, the American Counseling Association has a position paper with suggestions for calling legislators to register viewpoints about the issue.