SACRAMENTO, Calif., July 2 /PRNewswire/ -- Responding to growing
frustration with the lack of Congressional action on legislation to require
insurance companies to provide a parity of benefits for physical and mental
illnesses, the Mental Health Association in California is asking
Congressman Robert Matsui (D-Sacramento) to spearhead a new effort to spur
action on Capitol Hill.

During a morning tour of the Sutter Center for Psychiatry, Matsui met
with mental healthcare experts and heard firsthand the financial and
personal devastation caused by the lack of adequate private mental
healthcare coverage. The congressman then participated in a news
conference to unveil a new effort to focus Congressional debate on this
important issue.

"We applaud Congressman Matsui and a handful of his colleagues for
their tremendous support for parity mental healthcare coverage," said Rusty
Selix, executive director of the Mental Health Association in California.
"This is a very important issue that must be addressed.
"Unfortunately, the insurance industry and some business groups floated
bogus costs based on outdated information and stalled movement on Capitol
Hill," said Selix.

There had been momentum in Congress to pass the Domenici-Wellstone
amendment to the Health Insurance Reform Act (S. 1028), legislation
co-sponsored by Senator Nancy Kassebaum (R-Kansas) and Senator Edward
Kennedy (D-Massachusetts). The amendment would have prohibited treatment
limits and financial requirements on mental health coverage that exceed
those for coverage of physical conditions. The scope of the provision
would have been limited to coverage of those services determined to be
"medically necessary."

The passage of the Kennedy/Kassebaum bill now remains in doubt, and the
inclusion of mental health parity remains even more uncertain. It is
possible that none of these provisions will be enacted into law before
Congress adjourns for the year.

Studies indicate mental health parity results in savings to business
and government. Numerous studies and experiences by employers have demonstrated that
providing parity coverage for the treatment of mental illness does not
result in huge cost increases and, in many cases, results in significant
overall savings. The cost of mental healthcare coverage has been widely
exaggerated, as has the likelihood of significant over utilization of

"Paying for Parity," a new study by the Bazalon Center for Mental
Health Law examined what happened in Maryland and Minnesota, two states
which enacted recent legislation to require mental health parity. The
study found no significant insurance cost increases or reductions of other
health benefits in either states.

The Congressional Budget Office projects that mental healthcare parity
would increase insurance premiums by 1.6% for employers, or roughly $2 per
premium. Those costs would be more than offset by savings to businesses in
terms of worker productivity and reduced absenteeism. The cost to our
nation's economy from untreated mental health problems is more than $150
billion per year. On a national scale parity healthcare coverage is
expected to result in $16 billion in annual savings to taxpayers because
state and local government would no longer be required to pay for mental
healthcare for individuals with private insurance.

Studies have proven that most healthcare plans cover mental disorders
with significantly more restrictions on copayments and the type and amount
of services covered. For example, a typical policy might allow a lifetime spending of
$50,000 for mental illness, pay for 30 days of hospitalization and require
copayments of 50 percent for outpatient services, Coverage for physical
illness might be $1 million in lifetime spending, 120 days or more of
hospitalization and copayments of only 20 percent. Several plans in
California offer no mental healthcare coverage at all.
Mental illness impacts millions of Californians annually. The facts
about the incidence of mental illness are startling:

-0- 7/2/96
/CONTACT: Rusty Selix of Mental Health Association in California,
916-557-1167; or Kassy Perry of The Perry Group, 916-658-0144, for Mental
Health Association in California/

CO: Mental Health Association in California ST: California IN: HEA SU:

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