March 19, 2007

Proposals for Mental Health Insurance Parity Debated

The issue of mental health care insurance parity continues today with two bills under discussion in the House.

The New York Times discusses these bills in today's issue, with the following commentary:

Both bills seek to end discrimination against people with mental disorders by requiring insurers and employers to provide equivalent coverage, or parity, for mental and physical illnesses.

That would be a huge change. For decades, insurers have charged higher co-payments and set stricter limits on coverage of mental health services. For example, insurers often refuse to cover more than 20 visits a year to a psychotherapist. And a patient may have to pay 20 percent of the cost for visiting a cancer specialist, but 40 percent or more for a mental health specialist.

The differences between the Kennedys’ bills reflect different views about what is possible and what is politically feasible.

Read the full story: Proposals for Mental Health Parity Pit a Father’s Pragmatism Against a Son’s Passion (Free Registration Required)

In a related story Reuters reported today that at least two of the health care proposals being presented to Congress would cover all or nearly all of the Americans who lack health insurance, and many would lower spending, too, according to an independent report by The Commonwealth Fund that was released today.

Reuters reported that

"Many of the plans would do more to cover uninsured Americans and lower costs than President George W. Bush's proposals, said the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund, which studies health care issues."

"If we don't move to make changes to our failing health care system, the number of uninsured in this country is projected to rise to 56 million by 2013," Commonwealth Fund president Karen Davis said in a statement.

Reuters noted that in Bush's Healthcare proposal to help individuals buy their own health insurance with tax breaks, family spending on health care would fall by $31 billion.

However the Commonwealth Fund analysis revealed that families with annual incomes of less than $10,000 would save only $23 in 2007, while families earning $150,000 or more per year would save an average of $1,263 under the Bush plan.

Moreover, with Bush's plan only 9 million extra Americans who now lack insurance would be covered.

Read the full analysis on the health care proposals at the CommonWealth Fund web site: The Commonwealth Fund


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