MENTAL HEALTH PARITY: Saves Money, Saves Lives
In an editorial in Sunday's Los Angeles Times, Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) asserts that mental health parity is cost-effective and would "save lives." Touting AB 88, which she cosponsored with Assemblywoman Helen Thomson (D-Davis), Jackson says requiring health plans to offer equitable co-pays, deductions and maximum lifetime benefits for inpatient and outpatient mental health services is "sound public policy." Brushing aside claims that parity would fuel rocketing prices, Jackson counters that "mental health parity is not costly." She points to a 1997 Rand Corp. study and a 1998 National Institute of Mental Health report which both found "states are experiencing nominal if any increased premiums due to their mental health parity laws." If premiums inch up as a result of mental health parity, she contends, they would "be offset by a significant decrease in public expenditures for mental health services." According to the Children's Defense Fund, "childhood mental and emotional disorders that go unrecognized and untreated place young people at greater risk for school failure and drop out, drug use, HIV transmission and other difficulties." Public health care systems have long picked up the slack, she said, adding, "It is high time for private health insurance to do its part as well" (8/1).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.