Mental health parity bill

I haven’t posted anything on legislation that relates to mental health care so it’s about time I did.

On March 6, the House approved the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act, a mental health parity bill that will require most medical insurance companies to provide better treatment for mental illnesses akin to what they do for physical illnesses. This is a significant move considering that insurers who cover mental health treatment can currently do one of two things: make patients pay for the bulk of the cost or place limits on treatment. The Senate also passed a similar bill in September 2007. Here’s what both pieces of legislation would do:

Both bills would outlaw health insurance practices that set lower
limits on treatment or higher co-payments for mental health services
than for other medical care.

Typical annual limits include 30 visits to a doctor or 30 days of
hospital care for treatment of a mental disorder. Such limits would no
longer be allowed if the insurer had no limits on treatment of
conditions like cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

As a result, the cost of group health insurance premiums likely will go up. However, the bills do not apply to businesses with 50 employees or less or individual insurance.

According to the NYTimes, President Bush initially endorsed mental health parity but came out opposing the current bill because it “would effectively mandate coverage of a broad range of diseases.” Technically, he’s right.

Under the bill, if an insurer chooses to provide mental health
coverage, it must “include benefits” for any mental health condition
listed in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association.

The protections of the House bill apply to people who need treatment for alcohol and drug abuse, as well as mental illness.

Covering a broad range of conditions is a step forward, but I realize if group insurers are forced to pay for all conditions listed in the DSM, I can see why premiums would go up. It wouldn’t surprise me if costs increased significantly. No one likes to hear this but if people want better mental health coverage, they need to be willing to pay for it. For those who suffer with mental illnesses, it’s certainly worth the cost.

(By the way, only 47 Republicans joined the 221 Democrats in helping to pass the measure. It has nothing to do with the overall importance of the bill but it was a little annoyance that I had to throw in here. Grr.)

I'm officially unemployed

As of this past Monday, I currently own the title of "resident housewife." I made the big jump, at my husband's behest, and now find myself doing domestic things like housework and running errands. (I can't tell you how many times I washed dishes yesterday.) Oddly enough, I don't seem to mind except my feet hurt. I'd like a part-time job but the likelihood of obtaining a job where I wouldn't work weekends is highly unlikely. I have a friend, however, who's willing to pay me $10 an hour to help take care of her kids on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. She's currently having carpal tunnel problems so I'll likely take advantage of that offer whenever I can.

During the next coming weeks, I'm also going to try and freelance write. We'll see how that works out for me. I also wouldn't mind picking up some editing and proofreading jobs so I might have to re-interview with creative staffing services like Aquent and Boss Staffing. If anyone knows of any other creative staffing services like that in the Philadelphia area, please let me know. They specialize in placing people in "creative" jobs like editing, copy writing, proofreading, desktop publishing, web design, etc.

So that's my update. I can't promise multiple posts a day but I hope to write about mental health issues for a few publications so the potential for frequent posts and scouring other blogs for information in the next few weeks could be high. We'll see. I'm not sure about a market on writing about mental illness but it's one of the few topics I have a significant interest in.

As a result of leaving my job, the excellent medical  insurance that covered my husband and I has expired. We'll be moving to his health care insurance (which isn't awful but not as great as mine was). After a cursory search, however, we noticed that my psychiatrist isn't included under his plan. I'm reluctant to go to another doctor because I've already established a rapport with my current one. He's allowed me to have control over my own treatment and dictate the medication that I choose to use. I'm afraid another psychiatrist would try to shove Abilify down my throat if I mention passing suicidal thoughts. A few months ago, I went down to 100 mg of Lamictal in an attempt to slowly come off of it. I've been decreasing my dosages by about 25-50 mg every three months. I had a recurrence of frequent suicidal thoughts so I upped my dosage back to 150 mg. I was hoping that perhaps I had tricked myself into feeling better in conjunction with my counseling, but my suicidal thoughts have significantly decreased on the increased dose. It never ceases to scare me how much medication influences my mind.