The House of Representatives will be voting today on a bill that makes insurance companies cover mental illness at the same level as other illnesses. The bill, with the namesake of late Senator Paul Wellstone, is under much debate and scrutiny by Senate leaders, who passed a similar, but less comprehensive bill, last year.
This particular bill only applies to health care policies that already include mental illnesses, and simply makes the policies cover a larger range of illnesses and at the same level as other medical problems. The problem at this point is that it does not force all health care policies to include parity for mental health.
The bigger problem is that if this bill passes (which it’s likely to, at least in the House), it will override individual state laws on mental health. Some states have mandates on coverage for illnesses such as schizophrenia, but this bill could get rid of required coverage for these patients.
The thought is good–mental illness should be treated and covered with the same regard as physical illness. But the implementation so far is insufficient. Hopefully between the two bills, more discussion and compromise can be reached to create a reasonable coverage mandate. This isn’t an issue that can just be settled on–Wellstone worked for this issue fervently in his life and his son, David Wellstone said recently:
“For five years, I have heard promise after promise that Congress will pass mental health parity legislation in my father’s honor. Now, this is it.”
House to Vote on Parity for Mental Health Coverage – [Wall Street Journal]
House to vote on cause Wellstone championed – [Star Tribune]