10 Years and $700 Billion Later, A Step Toward Mental Health Parity

It appears that the media and politicians of both parties can agree on one thing these days: We are surrounded by crisis. One of the most important areas where the system in place is fundamentally broken is the health care system. Oddly enough, it took a different crisis in the economic markets and a financial bailout bill to finally get mental health parity signed into law. While mental health parity may not pose the largest crisis we face, the Mental Health Parity Act will have a positive impact on millions of Americans across the country. It addresses a gap in health care policy, but it is also an important symbolic accomplishment in the way we view health. We know that more than a quarter of Americans suffer from diagnosable, often treatable, mental illnesses and disorders annually. We also know that mental illnesses often go undiagnosed or untreated. In a 1999 report on mental health, the Surgeon General stated that those in need of treatment fail to seek it in the majority of cases. We have come a long way since the days when people who experienced “nervous fits” were hidden from society, but the subject remains misunderstood and taboo. The stigma associated with mental illness still keeps it from being diagnosed, discussed or insured. The Surgeon General also acknowledged that stigma gives insurers “tacit permission to restrict coverage for...

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