OPINIONATRIX…because my opinions dominate

{October 9, 2008}   Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining

Much talk has been made lately about how little the 700 billion dollar bailout seems to be doing for the economy.  The stock market continues to fall, the Asian markets seem to be following suit, and many are wondering what will come next.  The bill that was supposed to save us seems to be a dud.

It is easy to write of the bailout package as unfair, ineffective and ladled with “pork,” but every cloud has a silver lining and this is no exception.  I’m sure you’ve heard about all the ‘”pork” that was added to this bill – and it’s true there were a lot of sweeteners thrown in to get it passed.  However, not all of that “pork” was as inconsequential as one might believe.  Tucked into the baliout package was a Mental Health Parity act – something that advocates have been trying to push through congress for over a decade.

This is so undeniably important.  Millions of Americans suffer from mental illness and addiction.  Hopefully mental health parity will make it easier for those people to get the help they need.

Under the bill, which goes into effect in 2010, group insurance plans that cover mental illness already must now equalize its value with medical and surgical coverage. The number of covered visits, the cost of copays, and the total value of treatment covered each year would have to be on par.       -webMD

Getting insurance to pay for anything is a hassle these days, but for more abstract issues such as addiction, depression, eating disorders and other mental health problems it is double the stress.  Insurance companies will try anything to get out of paying for treatment. They argue that mental health issues aren’t biologically based, that intensive treatment isn’t necessary or that one is not “sick” enough to merit coverage.  For example, if one is merely depressed they might not qualify for coverage because they aren’t suicidal.  The current mental health coverage isn’t proactive, it’s reactive – if that. It’s about time congress acted on this!

I would challenge anyone out there to find someone whose life has not been touched by mental health issues.  These day’s we are pushing ourselves harder and harder, and life’s stresses are becoming more and more elevated.  As someone who has benefited from speaking with a therapist, I firmly believe this type of treatment should be covered and available to anyone who wants it.  It isn’t a matter of being “crazy,” it’s a matter of being aware enough to stay healthy.  While I do not take medication, I know countless people who do and think that prozac is just as important as lipitor and both should be covered equally by insurance companies.

The health system in this country is in need of a serious overhaul.  There are too many people out there without any coverage whatsoever, and we need to change that.  No one should die from an illness simply because they cannot afford to go to a doctor.  It is basic human decency for a country to provide its citizens with basic needs.  The Mental Health Parity Act is a step in the right direction, but it is only a baby step.  We need to focus on the important things.  My mother has always told me: “the most valuable thing you have is your health,” and we need to make our government understand that.  For ten years activists have been lobbying for Mental Health Parity, and finally action has been taken.  We now need to move on to the next thing: health insurance for anyone who wants it.


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