How the $700 Billion Bailout Helps Me…

Holidailies 2008

I’m not entirely sure that it helps me at all.  However, you know how Congress is notorious for adding on a bunch of other stuff that’s not necessarily directly related when they are passing bills?  Well, the economic stabilization bill also included the Wellstone-Domenici Mental Health Parity Act of 2008.  And yes, I was up at 5:30am today reading online info about the inclusion of this provision in the passage of the bailout.  Not that I have any anxiety around my health coverage or anything…  As someone who has suffered from depression, has been in therapy,  and is currently struggling to manage an attention deficit issue, this has long been a concern and the passage of this law is really good news.

Although I am fortunate to have mental health coverage in my group insurance plan, I have always found it frustrating that there are arbitrary limits put on this coverage.  Why is it that 20 or 30 outpatient visits makes any sense at all?  If I were suffering from a physical condition that required ongoing care, it would be ludicrous if my doctor could no longer treat me after a certain number of visits, whether or not I was cured.  The net result of these limits has always put mental health firmly in the 2nd class category of care.  It’s reinforced the idea that maybe these ailments just don’t exist at all.

Though advances have been made over the years and the stigma attached to mental illness is no longer what it once was, there’s still a long way to go. When celebrities like Tom Cruise (who could use some serious therapy himself),  propose vitamins and exercise as a cure for postpartum depression, and Kirsty Alley testifies in front of a State legislature to keep children from being “smeared” with a mental illness diagnosis, they give credence to the notion that millions of people with issues ranging from schizophrenia to ADHD are just faking it.  While a “religious” belief against treatment is one thing, keeping others from being treated for serious, legitimate medical conditions is unconscionable.  For years, the stigma of mental illness and lobbying by groups like the Citizens Campaign for Human Rights (a Scientology-backed lobbying organization) have allowed for this inequity of care to continue.  Combined with the insurance industry’s behemoth lobbying machinery against anything that would require them to fork out more money, the battle to create equity in care has raged on for years.

Finally, finally, wiser heads have prevailed.  Even though it seems odd that this provision would be attached to the bailout bill, I, for one, am quite happy to know that something good may actually come from this economic crisis. Unfortunately, the law doesn’t go into effect until January 2010.  This means that until then, treatment limits are still in effect. Oh well, I know I’m very lucky to have a job that includes health coverage. period.  And until parity is in effect, I’ll just be thankful for the upcoming change.  I’ll also look closely to see what unrelated measures might be added to the impending auto industry bailout.  Marriage equality?  I know, wishful thinking, but you have to admit, it would make yet another corporate bailout easier to swallow…

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