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David Baxter

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Mental Health Insurance Crisis Affecting Millions of Americans Suffering From Depression, Other Mental Health Disorders

Half of Americans Who Need Mental Health Treatment Do Not Receive It

WASHINGTON, June 8 ? Millions of Americans have found out the hard way that employer-provided health plans offer far more limited mental health benefits than for physical illnesses.

"This lack of parity is leading to a national mental health crisis and is costing far more than providing proper coverage," says Pamela Greenberg, chair of the Coalition for Fairness in Mental Illness Coverage.

"Lack of true mental health parity, coupled with ignorance and social stigma about mental illness, means that our nation faces a mental health crisis that will continue to skyrocket with crippling effects for many Americans, their families, communities and their employers," Greenberg stresses.

One woman who can attest to this reality is Gail Griffith, the mother of one of the estimated 57 million Americans who suffer from a mental health disorder. In 2001, Griffith's teenage son suffered severe depression and attempted suicide. The mental health treatment he required proved to be very costly, despite the fact that his family had insurance.

"Our family was fortunate enough to have the financial resources to sustain my son's mental health crisis -- and it still required a titanic lift from everyone involved. But the sad reality is that there are millions of families whose insurance won't cover their children's psychiatric care," remarks Griffith, whose memoir Will's Choice examines how she coped with her son's depression and confronted a health care system fraught with economic inequalities.

Unfortunately, Griffith's story is not unique. For many families, treatment and coverage costs for depression and other mental health disorders are simply too high. The President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health reports half of Americans who need mental health treatment do not receive it.

However, the costs of untreated mental health and substance abuse disorders to American businesses, governments and families are even higher. These costs have grown to $113 billion annually. A 2003 study found that depression alone cost the economy $83 billion a year including absenteeism and lost productivity at work and treatment costs. Untreated mental health needs can also lead to unemployment, costly emergency room care and hospitalization.

Opponents of mental health parity have claimed that parity would be too costly. However, these claims are not supported. Recent studies, including a report in The New England Journal of Medicine commissioned by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, show clearly that parity can improve health coverage without increasing overall health care costs.

Ten years ago, Congress approved legislation requiring annual and lifetime dollar limits for mental health coverage to be the same as for other health coverage. However, the Government Accountability Office found that 87% of employers that comply with the law have reduced other aspects of their mental health coverage, such as day and visit limits.

Today's health plans routinely provide coverage for mental health that is far more limited than coverage for physical illnesses. Some patients now face lifetime coverage limits of the number of treatment sessions they can receive -- regardless of their medical needs. But insurance sets no comparable benefit limits on needed treatment for any other illness.

"A comprehensive parity law is more than a decade overdue. We need to end insurance discrimination against people with mental health problems," emphasizes Greenberg.

CONTACT: Heather Cobb of the National Mental Health Association, +1-703-797-2588, hcobb@nmha.org; or Kathleen Archer of the American Psychological Association, +1-202-336-5910, kea@apa.org
 

AVC

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It's not affecting me Dr. Dave, because I have no health insurance and have not had any for 20 years or so! :eek:

One reason is the fact that there is so much fraud in the insurance system, when I had Blue Cross full medical coverage for myself and an employee years ago, they sent me a rate increase of 100% the next year and I told them to stick it and dropped it, the system is out of control and rife with fraud in America!!
 

David Baxter

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I think it is unethical and immoral that insurance companies are happy to take your money for years and then when you try to make a claim they look for reasons to deny you.
 

ThatLady

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I couldn't agree more, David. Insurance company practices are completely unethical. I can't figure out for the life of me why people put up with their shenanigans!
 

just mary

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I completely agree with both of you.

However, insurance companies are businesses, they exist to make money for themselves and their shareholders. They come first, you come second. They would like you to think that they have your best interests at heart, but they don't. The only way for them to succeed as a company is to maximize their profits which means holding onto their cash for as long as possible.

I thought about becoming an actuary once, I'm so glad I didn't. But I don't want to put down actuaries, it was just a personal decsion, they're good people. :D
 

Halo

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In my line of work I deal directly with many many insurance companies and yes I do find it sad when they know they should or ought to pay for this or that and they just won't cough up the money.

Frustrating for me having to deal with them for sure :mad:
 

AVC

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I think it is unethical and immoral that insurance companies are happy to take your money for years and then when you try to make a claim they look for reasons to deny you.

Well this was 15 years ago or more, the fraud in the USA is much worse today, it is not just the insurance companies fault though because the hospitals over bill and so do doctors, the entire system needs reform.

When there is fraud in any system, those in power steal resources from the poor and those who need it, sort of like African leaders do with aid given, America's leaders are more guilty than they are!
 

Daniel

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The majority of Americans favor some form of universal healthcare based on the Medicare system, but that's not going to happen because of lobbyists, apathy, etc. Citing this example among others, Noam Chomsky (who is controversial except for his theories on linguistics) says the US is a "failed state":

Noam Chomsky on the Charlie Rose show - Google Video
 

AVC

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We failed long ago, when the Kennedy's were killed and the Nixon types took over, sad but so true and it is affecting all of the citizens of the world today!

Look at the failure of responding to the victims of Katrina, they did not have money, so they were left to rot with no food and water!
 

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