U.S. Rep Kennedy Pushes For Mental Health Insurance Parity

A big kudos goes out to U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) who is in Providence, Rhode Island this week to ramp up support for legislation he hopes will bring more equality in health insurance coverage between mental and physical illnesses.

On Tuesday, Kennedy along with fellow Congressman Jim Ramstad opened up about their own mental health battles in the first of several public forums. Kennedy has struggled with substance abuse and bipolar disorder while Ramstad has battled alcoholism. Both men are hoping the forums will combat the stigma associated with mental illness and to build a groundswell of support for mental/physical parity in health insurance coverage.

A March 2006 study in The New England Journal of Medicine surveyed over 700,000 federal employees and reported that lowering the out-of-pocket expenses for mental health patients is possible. A 2001 policy has required federal employee health insurance programs to treat benefit plans associated with substance abuse and mental illness like any other disease.

Despite this, parity between physical and mental illness in the health insurance game has been slow, and Kennedy and the Democrats are looking to have their new legislation come to a vote later this year. In the last session of Congress, the Republican leadership would not bring it up for a vote, citing worries that such laws would lead to a spike in health insurance premiums.

Does my heath insurance cover mental illness?

If you have developed depression, bipolar disease, social phobias or substance abuse and want to know if you're covered for treatment, contact your insurance provider or consult your employer's benefits plan. Coverage for mental health differs greatly from state to state and often requires higher deductibles. If you work for a company that employs 50 people or less, you can enhance your mental health coverage with a Medical Savings Account, or MSA. If you are self-employed, you're also eligible for an MSA.

If you're in the market for a health insurance plan, you may wish to check out some of our health insurance sponsors for a quote.

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