I keep meaning to do a substantive post on the issue of mental health parity legislation but US Congressional activity proceeds as it will. So I have little more than a cut and paste job of a plea from the Research Society on Alcoholism to call your Members of Congress to ask them to support "The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act."
In very brief outline the efforts (many years in progress now with gradual improvements) for mental health parity seek to ensure that health conditions that are primarily behavioral and/or affective in nature are accorded the same respect and consideration under law as are any other health conditions.
It should come as no surprise to my readers that there is a considerable segment of the population (including some MDs and politicians and scientists) that at some level believe that certain behavioral and affective disorders are not really health care situations. That these are the province of morality or patient "will" or personality deficit or something considered to be nonmedical. And therefore not deserving of attention or, most importantly, support under health care insurance mechanisms.
This is a very deep and meaty topic from the science to the public policy to the politics to the economics to the... Well, that is why I've never stepped up to the plate on this. And I am not doing so today. I'll just leave you with the following request from one of my academic societies.
UP TO THE MINUTE NEWS FROM
THE RESEARCH SOCIETY ON ALCOHOLISM
CALL YOUR CONGRESSMAN IMMEDIATELY
HOUSE VOTES ON MENTAL HEALTH PARITY LATE TODAY OR TOMORROW
October 2, 2008
Last evening, by a vote of 74 to 25, U.S. Senate passed the Emergency
Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 which includes the financial rescue
legislation as well as tax extenders, alternative minimum tax relief,
disaster relief, energy incentives, and mental health parity. The parity
title which was included is "The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental
Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act." The House is expected to take up
the Senate passed bill late today or, more likely, tomorrow (Friday) morning.
NOW is the time to act to ensure that mental health and substance abuse
coverage is significantly improved for 113 million Americans. NOW is the
time to bring to a successful conclusion nearly a decade of work on mental
health parity legislation. NOW is not the time to take anything for
granted. NOW is the time to make your expert professional voice heard.
It is critical that you express your support for the mental health parity
bill to your elected officials. Please call or e-mail your Congressman
today. Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for the
office of your Congressman. When you reach the office, remember that
telephone calls are usually taken by a staff member, not the Member of
Congress. Ask to speak with the aide who handles the mental health issue and
identify yourself and your profession. Tell the aide you would like to leave
a brief message for your Member of Congress: "Please tell Congressman (Name)
that I support the mental health parity legislation and urge him or her to
vote in favor of the final legislation when it comes up for a vote as part
of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008."
If you would like to e-mail your Member of Congress, please go to
www.house.gov. and the site will direct you to your Congressman's contact
THIS LEGISLATION HAS BEEN YEARS IN THE MAKING-ACT NOW TO ENSURE THAT IT
Yeah, this is shoehorned into the bailout and I know opinions vary. But if you are talking to your CongressCritter, at least mention your support for mental health parity?
Update 10/3/08: The Act made it into the legislation that passed today. Coverage here, Domenici's story here, Dodd's PR here. National Alliance on Mental Illness site has coverage and background.