MENTAL HEALTH PARITY: S.F. Chronicle Backs Assembly Bill 1100
An editorial in today's San Francisco Chronicle supports AB 1100, a bill the newspaper says "would take a significant step forward in providing treatment for the severely mentally ill -- those with brain disorders such as manic-depression, schizophrenia, panic disorder and autism." The Chronicle notes that "[h]ealth insurers often impose arbitrary restrictions on" mental health treatment, "such as limiting the number of doctor's visits ... that would never be leveled on patients with physical disease." AB 1100, introduced by Assembly members Helen Thomson (D-Davis) and Don Perata (D-Alameda), would "require health care service plans and disability health insurers to provide coverage for the diagnosis and medically necessary treatment of biologically-based severe mental illness."
Unwarranted Cost Concerns
The editorial notes that "many insurers have been moaning that mental health costs are a 'bottomless pit'" that threatens to "bankrupt them." However, the Chronicle says "a number of studies have shown otherwise" -- a mental health parity law would help save money in "the reduction in use of hospital services, in the decrease of physical ailments related to untreated neurobiological problems and in fewer lost workdays." A Rand Corp. analysis predicted that "payments would increase by only $1 per enrollee per year" under a parity requirement. The Chronicle concludes: "Diseases of the brain have been treated differently from diseases of the body -- a distinction that has been based on a misperception of cost and not on fairness. The Thomson-Perata bill, which has gone to the Senate floor, would help rectify that unmerited differentiation" (3/27). Click here for past California Healthline coverage of the mental health parity proposal.