Mental Health Parity Needed

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It is "unconscionable" that U.S. residents with mental illnesses"face unequal and unfair insurance barriers that can be catastrophic"to their health, financial security and lives, former first ladiesBetty Ford and Rosalynn Carter write in a Washington Timesopinion piece. "[W]e know after decades of brain research" that mentalillness and addiction "are diseases and that effective treatmentsexist," Ford and Carter write, adding, "Patients affected by thesedisorders should be treated with the same urgency and diligence aspatients with any other disease and should receive the same health careoptions and coverage."

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According to Ford and Carter, the U.S."can afford to end this discrimination," and the "costs to our societyfor untreated mental illnesses and addiction must compel us to worktoward fixing our broken system." Ford and Carter note that untreatedmental illness and addiction cost U.S. taxpayers nearly $600 billionannually "through indirect" and "diverted costs."

Ford and Carter urge Congress to approve mental health parity legislation (HR 1424 and S 558),which would ensure "that mental health and addiction patients aretreated no differently than other medical or surgical patients." Thelaw would not "force companies to offer mental health or addictiontreatment benefits, but if such benefits are covered, they must beoffered in the same manner as other medical and surgical coverage inthe plan," Ford and Carter write (Ford/Carter, Washington Times, 7/18).
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Reprinted with permission fromkaisernetwork.org.You can view the entire KaiserDaily Health Policy Report, search the archives, andsign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published forkaisernetwork.org,a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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