MENTAL HEALTH PARITY: Equalizing Coverage Is Cost-Effective
Mental health parity is cost-effective and more humane than waiting for mentally ill patients to seek treatment in the emergency room, according to an op-ed in today's San Francisco Chronicle. William Dodge, a member of the California Alliance for the Mentally Ill, writes that "employers must demand new laws that will end the financial waste and stop the stigma and discrimination, which Americans with a severe mental illness face." Pointing to Pacific Bell, which recently restructured its health coverage to cover mental illness at the same level as it covers physical illness, Dodge asserts that the focus on less costly outpatient treatment reduced the cost of expensive hospitalizations by 50%. Health plans that cover severe mental illness -- schizophrenia, extreme depression and bipolar disorder -- can in fact lower overall costs, Dodge says. Health plans would save by footing the $100-a-day bill for outpatient services and new medications rather than waiting for patients' conditions to worsen and need $2,000-per-day stays in psychiatric hospitals. "Managing severe mental illness is not only cost-effective," Dodge concludes that "it is the right thing to do" (4/22).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.