Issue: Mental Health Parity

We have the President's support...

What is Parity?
By Katy Clark

arity simply means equality, balance. Mental health parity is simply mental health equality. As therapists, you realize there is an imbalance

between mental health care insurance coverage and physical health care coverage. For example, getting treatment for a lung disease or a sprained ankle has no stigma attached, whereas receiving help for a problem with depression does.

Debra Wilke, a therapist and APA Diplomate (DAPA), comments about the whole issue of disparity between mental and physical health care coverage: “Shortly before opening my own business, I was thinking about going to a therapist for some relationship issues. I was cautioned by my insurance company not to go through them for mental health care because it might make it difficult for me to receive liability insurance later on. The insurance company said I should pay for it myself out-of-pocket. I couldn’t believe it! It was almost impossible for me to make use of the very services I intended to give. It really gave me a wake-up call about the imbalance of the current system.”

Dr. Tom Stokes, another APA Diplomate and a professional in the mental health field says, “Without question, there’s a disparity between mental and physical health care coverage. With physical symptoms, there’s a burden of proof that it can be cured. There’s no guarantee that mental problems can be cured. They can be arrested, but never completely cured. We deal with hypothetical constructs, and there is no concrete proof as there is with a brain tumor or other physical impairment.”

Parity Background Information:

The first mental health parity bill was signed by President Bill Clinton on Sept. 26, 1997 and was called the 1996 Mental Health Parity Act. Recently, Rep. Marge Roukema (R-NJ) introduced a similar bill, the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Parity Amendments of 2001, H.R. 162 on January 3, 2001. Two months later, Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Paul Wellstone (D-MN) introduced the Mental Health Equitable Treatment Act of 2001, S. 543.

These bills required ...


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