INSURANCE FOR ADDICTION, MENTAL HEALTH
Bill puts cover on a par with other illnesses Will – can – the UK benefit similarly?
In a major victory for addiction/dependency treatment and recovery advocates, the US House of Representatives passed a bill to mandate that insurers cover addiction and mental illness on par with other illnesses.
"We have waited 12 long years," said Jim Ramstad, co-chair with Senator Patrick Kennedy of the Congressional Addiction, Treatment and Recovery caucus. They jointly sponsored the bill.
The vote was 268 to 148 in favour of HR1424, the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act, rebuffing attempts to substitute a weaker version of parity legislation previously approved by the Senate. "Illness of the brain must be treated like illness anywhere else in the body," said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who appeared at a pre-vote rally on the steps fo the Capitol and spoke in favour of the measure during the debate on 5 March. She added that there were also economic benefits.
THE NEXT MOVE
The two houses of Congress must now meet and reach a compromise on parity if the legislation is to move switfly toward a vote in a legislative calender shortened by the presidential election season. "We urge Congress to come together and hammer out differences," said Merlyn Karst, chair of Faces & Voices of Recovery.
For example, unlike the Senate bill, the House legislation requires that out-of-plan addiction and mental-health treatment be covered by insurers if plans do it for other illnesses, and that insurers cover all illnesses listed in the DSM-IV Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – both it and IC10 are used in the UK and Europe for diagnosis. DSM-IV is the same standard used in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan.
UK advocates or anyone close to someone who has had to fight to access treatment should watch this closely. We deserve parity.