National Council Applauds Rep. Tonko for Seeking Strict Enforcement of Mental Health Parity Law – July 1, 2010 Deadline Approaching

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To speak with mental health experts on Wellstone/Domenici mental parity law, contact Meena Dayak at MeenaD(at)thenationalcouncil(dot)org or 202.684.3728.

it is impossible to use the same techniques in managing the treatment of colon cancer and schizophrenia, or heart failure and major depression.

With the deadline fast approaching for new federal rules implementing the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA), Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) has sent a letter, also signed by many of his colleagues, to the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury urging them to resist insurance industry efforts to create new loopholes in the law. The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare (National Council) — representing community providers serving low-income people with mental illnesses — applauds the congressman’s leadership.

In his letter, Rep. Tonko states that insurers are engaging in “discriminatory and outdated thinking” and seeking to maintain outmoded medical management techniques. The new rules prohibit insurance companies from applying discriminatory limits against mental health services in private health insurance contracts. Before the Wellstone/Domenici law passed in October 2008, the managed care industry was free to levy higher co-pays and deductibles on mental health care, while also imposing arbitrary limits on outpatient and inpatient services.

In a recent New York Times story, insurers are quoted as saying that “it is impossible to use the same techniques in managing the treatment of colon cancer and schizophrenia, or heart failure and major depression.” In response, Linda Rosenberg, CEO of the National Council said: “This argument — used to justify the continuation of discriminatory managed care practices — is utterly without merit and does not reflect fully three decades of scientific research from the National Institute of Health proving exactly the opposite. The whole basis of parity is that mental disorders, like other chronic illnesses, have a biological basis and can be managed using similar clinical management techniques.”

After nearly 20 years of congressional debate, Wellstone/Domenici prohibits for all time, discrimination against persons with mental illnesses and addiction disorders in the private insurance industry market place. The National Council strongly believes that the rule-making process should be not employed as a vehicle to revive discrimination because it suits the business interests of specific companies. The managed care industry should drop all efforts to defeat implementation of the mental health parity rules.

The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) association of 1,700 healthcare organizations that provide treatment and rehabilitation for mental illnesses and addictions disorders to nearly six million adults, children and families in communities across the country. The National Council and its members bear testimony to the fact that medical, social, psychological, and rehabilitation services offered in community settings help people with mental illnesses and addiction disorders recover and lead productive lives.

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