November 29th, 2006 by Maribeth Neelis
Cutting health-care costs has become something of a national obsession. And rightly so, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the United States spent almost 1.7 trillion on health care in 2003, accounting for 15.3 percent of the Gross Domestic Product.
Government agencies and insurance companies have concocted several strategies to stall rising costs–HSAs, consumer-driven health care and Medicaid cuts–which is why recent efforts by some states to widen insurance coverage is receiving push back from businesses and insurance companies.
Recently, the mental health insurance bill or mental health parity has been the unlikely star in the Ohio and New Jersey senates. The measure would provide equal health-care coverage for some mental illnesses, which goes against the trend of cutting health-insurance benefits in an effort to cut costs. But it seems the pendulum is swinging away from cost-costing maneuvers, at least on this particular point, as more people are speaking out for the issue.
Ohio legislative leaders are starting to come around in favor of the bill after nearly 15 years of opposition. The newfound support and imminent inauguration of a Democratic governor could make Ohio the 38th state to enact this law.
In New Jersey, the mental health parity was recently approved by the Budget and Appropriations Committee and now moves on to the Senate. Despite objections that it will raise the already sky-scraping cost of New Jersey health insurance, many believe the bill will gain bipartisan approval before year’s end.
Supporters argue that it’s discriminatory to provide coverage for a physical condition, such as Parkinson’s disease, but deny it for a mental illness, like Schizophrenia, when both diseases are caused by an irregular level of dopamine in the brain. A sound argument–but not necessarily one that resonates with the small businesses that will feel the financial burn, should the law mandating equal coverage pass.
Although adding another benefit seems counterintuitive in the effort to lower the cost of health insurance, it’s the direction we’re headed–nearly three-fourths of the states already have laws in place.