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General Health : Government Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM


Bailout bill provides more mental health coverage
By Sue Mueller
Oct 6, 2008 - 7:35:39 AM

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Monday October 6, 2008 (foodconsumer.org) -- The law included in the economic bailout bill introduced by Sen. Pete Domenici, a New Mexico Republican, and Sen. Paul Wellstone, a Minnesota Democrat will give mental patients more benefits from their insurance.

Sen. Domenici has a daughter diagnosed with schizophrenia.   He has been fighting to get the bill passed for years.  He was also diagnosed with a progressive form of brain disease.  News media said he is retiring from the senate.

Patients have been receiving fewer benefits for their mental problems than other medical problems like heart disease and cancer from their health insurance and the economic bailout bill that has been signed by President Bush specifies that the discrimination should be eradicated.

 

Congress approved the bill on Sep 23 that requires private insurance insurers to remove certain limits on benefits for mental illness, Washington Post reported.

 

The bill, which has been advocated reportedly for 12 years by friends and relatives of people with mental illness and addiction disorders, is meant to end the discrimination in health insurance and to reduce the suffering of mental illness.

 

Currently, federal law allows insurers to set higher co-payments or stricter limits on mental health benefits that are otherwise not applicable to medical or surgical coverage.

 

For example, deductible for medical treatment may be only $200 while the deductible for mental illness like depression, schizophrenia, and substance abuse could be as high as $2,000, Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy was cited as saying.

 

Typically, patients with a mental illness are allowed to visit a doctor 30 times or stay in hospital for 30 days annually. The new law removes the limits if the insurer had no limits on treatments for other medical illnesses like heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

 

T he law allows hospitals to redesign treatment plans for patients with illnesses such as depression, autism, schizophrenia, eating disorders and alcohol and drug abuse. Patients like these currently receive restricted treatments due to the limit of insurance benefits.

 

More benefits mean that businesses need to pay more for employees' insurance.   The new requirement will increase premiums by about two tenths of one percent; the Congressional Budget Office was cited by The New York Times as saying. But small businesses with 50 or less employees are exempt.

 

The new law would improve coverage for an estimated 113 million people including 82 million in employer sponsored plans that are not under state regulation.   The new requirement will affect most health plans effective in Jan 1, 2010.





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