Friday, May 25, 2007

Where is Hillary on Insurance Discrimination for Mentally Ill?

I saw in today's Washington Post that Senator Hillary Clinton is developing a 7-point plan to address problems in our health care delivery system and to reduce costs:

  1. a "prevention initiative" to reduce preventable diseases such as diabetes;

  2. modernizing health-care records through computerization;

  3. overhauling care for the chronically ill, whose costs account for approximately two-thirds of all health-care expenditures;

  4. "ending insurance discrimination" by providing care to people with pre-existing conditions, who are currently shut out;

  5. creating a "best practices institute," with both government and private participants, to determine standards of care;

  6. legalizing prescription-drug importation and requiring Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices; and

  7. implementing "common sense" changes to the medical malpractice system.

I was surprised to see her mention "ending insurance discrimination" without mentioning -- in the same breath -- ending the long-standing practice of carving mental health treatment out of the rest of the medical system, while applying different payment mechanisms (higher co-pays, for example) which have resulted in fractured care systems and higher costs. Even Medicare continues to charge beneficiaries a 50% co-pay for outpatient mental health care rather than the 20% for all other organ system disease.

This "carve-out" system is the ultimate in insurance discrimination. This lack of parity between brain illness and body illness should have ended in the 1990s, during the Decade of the Brain.

So, I went to the source at I found yesterday's speech about her health care plans. Skimming it, I saw no mention of mental health care. Ctrl-F brought up the Search bar... I typed "m-e-n-t-a-l" ... no hits.

I'm sure she supports this concept (who wouldn't, other than maybe insurance companies?), but c'mon lady, give it a bullet point. Make it a campaign issue. At LEAST pay lip service to it in your speech. Millions of Americans get shafted on this issue every single day.

What will you do about it, Madam Senator?