Equal health insurance coverage for mental illness

    For more than a decade mental health advocates have pushed the federal government to guarantee equal health insurance coverage for people with mental illness. Now they say a victory is close. From WHYY’s Behavioral Health Desk, Taunya English reports.

    For more than a decade mental health advocates have pushed the federal government to guarantee equal health insurance coverage for people with mental illness. Now they say a victory is close. From WHYY’s Behavioral Health Desk, Taunya English reports.

    headphonesListen to the mp3 »

     

    Transcript:

    Last night, the U.S. house and senate passed bills that would require insurance companies to provide the same level of benefits for mental illness and physical ailments.

    Pennsylvania congressman Joe Sestak supports the move.

    Sestak: What it does is that it ensures that any type of financial requirements whether it’s a co-payment, deductible, the number of visits you are permitted can’t be more restrictive or costly for mental health as it is for other types of physical issues.

    The proposed rules also give mental health patients equal access to out-of-network providers.

    James Jordan, the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Pennsylvania, says current law allows insurance companies to discriminate. Jordan says that means millions of Americans get no help — or struggle to pay out-of-pocket for substance abuse treatment, depression and other mental health care.

    Jordan: This will put hope into the lives of lots and lots of people. There are families who have spent every dime, mortgaged their house several times and done all kinds of things to pay for the care for their loved ones.

    Congressman Sestak says the change could boost worker productivity.

    Sestak: We lose over 150 billion dollars annually in our economy because we aren’t properly treating mental illness.

    The house and senate have to reconcile different versions of the bill, after that, Jordan expects president Bush to sign the legislation.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.