Unbiased Analysis of Today's Healthcare Issues

Bailout…for mental health

Written By: Jason Shafrin - Oct• 07•08

Wall Street wasn’t the only group helped by the economic bailout bill.  Also included in the bailout bill was a law that requires equal coverage of mental and physical illnesses.  The law was the culmination of many years of work by mental health advocates such as Senator Pete V. Domenici and Senator Paul Wellstone. 

What will mental health equality in coverage mean?  

“Medicare beneficiaries pay 20 percent of the government-approved amount for most doctors’ services but 50 percent for outpatient mental health services. The co-payment for mental health care will be gradually reduced to 20 percent over six years.”

However, for private plans this may not be as clear.  What if a private health insurance plan has no coinsurance for primary care, a 20% coinsurance rate for dermatologists, and a 40% coinsurance rate for cardiothorasic surgeons.  If mental health care must have equal coverage to medical care, which number must it be equal to?  The of course does not take into account copayments either which often vary if you go to a primary care doctor compared to a specialist.

The benefits of this law will accrue to those who have or will have a mental illness.  The cost of the plan will be shared by all through higher premiums.  Someone must pay for these additional insured services; either insurance premiums will increase or taxes will rise if the government opts to subsidize mental health services (as it will likely do in the case of Medicare).  

Is the the extra tax/premium cost worth having a mental health benefit?  Reader, that is a decision for you to make on your own.

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One Comment

  1. PookieMD says:

    Mental illnesses are illnesses similar to diabetes. A diabetic needs medications to keep their blood sugars under control, a bipolar patient needs medications to stabilize their body as well. I don’t see a lot of difference. To say, “Is the the extra tax/premium cost worth having a mental health benefit? ” is to deny that mental illness is real, and to persist in the antiquated thinking that, “it’s all in your head.” It would be an interesting analysis for the blog author to evaluate productivity lost secondary to untreated mental illnesses. Perhaps THAT will change the thinking as to whether it is worth providing mental health benefits.