Bill passed to provide mental health insurance coverage

By Diana Trasatti
October 23, 2008

Recent bills supporting coverage for those suffering from mental health illnesses and new Web sites providing information for America’s youth show that society is making significant strides towards ending the mental health stigma.

The ten-year struggle of mental health activists is reaching its end. On Tuesday, Sept. 24, the House and Senate passed a bill that would require private insurance companies to provide the same coverage for those who suffer from mental health aliments and those who are facing medical treatment and surgical procedures.

In the past, private insurers were able to implement higher co-payments and put boundaries on the amount of mental health coverage. Thirty visits to a doctor or 30 days of hospital treatment for a disorder were a part of the original implications, but now under the new legislation there are no limits of mental health coverage if there are no limits in medical conditions.

Currently 42 states require equal coverage for mental and physical illness. Eighty-two millions of Americans work for private insurers, in which these laws do not apply and 31 million Americans possess plans that do not provide equal coverage.

“We’ve always had a stigma, sort of like mental illness is a character flaw. But now science has moved forward, and we can see the complexities in the brain that lead to eating disorders, compulsive disorders. All these connections are being made, the science is just becoming so firm. And it destroys the myth that this stuff is a choice,” Patrick J. Kennedy, democrat representative from Rhode Island, said in an interview with the Washington Post.

The House and Senate support this bill, but it is still indefinite whether it will be transformed into a law and it currently acts as a stand alone bill. Figuring out how to pay the estimated 3.4 billion government costs in a 10-year span is one of the main factors standing in the way of its passage.

Mental health illnesses affect a large quantity of Americans. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 26.2 percent of the 18 and older population posses identifiable mental disorders; 9.1 percent are afflicted with a personality disorder and only 39 percent receive treatment.

“Those with mental illnesses cannot help it and they should be provided with the same benefits as someone who has broken their leg, needs surgery or is fighting disease. The stigma within society needs to end and this marks a crucial step of Americans becoming more aware and knowledgeable of mental health,” Bridget Cantwell, junior pre-nursing major, said.

Along with this ruling, other programs and organizations are being implemented to spread awareness and inform the public.

MTV has recently aided in launching the Web site, Halfof Half of Us, refers to the statistical finding that about half of college students have reported feeling so depressed they could not function properly.

The Web site provides multimedia personal stories from singers and actors such as, Mary J. Blige, Pete Wentz, Brittany Snow and Max Bemis, as well as everyday teenagers and college students that chronicle their struggle with depression, abuse, eating disorders and bipolar disorder.

“Nearly all mental health issues can be improved with proper treatment. When we decrease the stigma around mental health and encourage students to seek help if they need it, we are changing and saving lives,” the site states.

The site also contains information on different disorders, how to get help and ways to support a friend who is suffering.

Cabrini College provides counseling services free of cost to anyone who feels they need to talk to someone and Active Minds is an organization on campus that aims to spread knowledge and identify any misconceptions surrounding disorders.

“It’s good that the site is out there and all these issues are brought to the forefront. College students, as well as anyone, should know that there is help out there and others who understand what it’s like,” Cantwell said.

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Diana Trasatti

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