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.
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.
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
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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