10.08.2008

Parity, please...

Thanks to my friend Anne, who passed along some exciting -- and much overdue -- news after reading my blog post about Mental Health Awareness Week.

It seems that in addition to bailing out Wall Street and whoever else got into hot water over the recent financial crisis, the Legislature's just-passed rescue bill had a few extras attached. While some people might call it pork, we call it progress. The Senate and the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan, compromise piece of legislation known as the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 as part of the financial bailout. President Bush signed the bill into law.

So FINALLY, it is against the law for employers and insurers to impose stricter limits on coverage for mental health and substance-use conditions than those set for other health problems. Officials say it will provide parity for 82 million Americans covered by self-insured plans and another 31 million in plans subject to state regulation.

There was nothing more alarming than finding out a couple years ago -- while I was in the midst of a deep depressive episode and in need of psychiatric care, meds and therapy -- that I had reached the "maximum" on my "mental health coverage." Meaning, if I had a heart attack or hemorrhoids or gall stones or a hangnail or bunyons or I cut my ear off while chopping down a tree, insurance would pay. If I couldn't function to do my job or take care of my family or myself, if I wanted to end it all, sorry, but you've reached your max. Going to have to suck it up for another three months until the new year's allotment becomes available.

No more of that. And just in time. With the way the economy and our world are right now, more people than ever may find themselves struggling to deal with it all.

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