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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"You Cannot Separate The Mind And The Body"

"You cannot separate the mind and the body", said Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I. People in need of mental health care may finally get the help they need. Insurance companies have always provided the least amount of coverage for mental health and substance abuse patients. Countless people have been denied coverage for mental health related problems, to the point where people have come to accept that that is the way it is. With the help of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy and his son, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., politicians were able to get the parity bill on to the Wall Street bailout package in September 2008. While the entire nation was preoccupied with the presidential election and the economy, the bill was passed without anyone even noticing. Starting Jan. 1, 2010 large group health insurance plans that provide mental health coverage must provide the same level of coverage at the same price as physical and surgical coverage; the new law only applies to group health plans which cover 50 or more. This is the beginning of a very significant change in the way health care is provided. "This is a major piece of civil right's health care legislation," the younger Kennedy told an audience honoring him and Ramstad at Mar-a-Lago last year according to the Palm Beach Post.

Just as with any new bill, there is still a lot that hasn't been worked out, such as the guideline for how the new law will be implemented. Companies that offer mental heath care with their package may choose to drop mental health coverage all together rather then be burdened with the new law. Nobody knows if student health care plans and employee assistance plans fall under the umbrella of this bill or not. Naturally, if insurance companies have to provide equal coverage, the cost of coverage will increase; heightened costs may be unaffordable for a significant amount of employers, forcing them to drop coverage all together.

Despite the kinks that still need to be worked out this is a big step and providing patients what they need and deserve. Routinely, those in need of drug and alcohol treatment have been denied coverage by the health care provider. For too long mental health patients have slipped through the cracks - not any more!

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