The Free Press, Mankato, MN

News Ticker

Editorials

December 6, 2012

Our View: Close the insurance parity loophole

At a recent reception for Paul and Sheila Wellstone, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken said he’s overseeing the implementation of a law named for Wellstone that requires health insurance providers give equal coverage for mental health and substance abuse treatments as they do for physical problems.

This is long overdue.

Four years ago, Congress passed the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Act, requiring insurers to cover mental illness and substance abuse treatment as they do physical ailments. The law, specifically championed by the late Wellstone, sought to end two-tiered systems that severely undercut treatment for those suffering from mental illness.

However, since President George W. Bush signed the law, the Obama administration still has to complete federal rules enabling states to enforce it.

Consequently, according to a report by Stateline and Pew Research, behavioral health advocates argue that treatment has fallen further behind. The U.S. Government Accountability Office reported this year that health insurance plans increased the number of exclusions for mental health since the law was enacted.

James Ramstad, a former Minnesota Republican congressman and advocate for the Wellstone law, said “hundreds of thousands of Americans are being denied their rights under the federal parity law. … It took 12 years to pass that parity act and four years later, we still have no rules and therefore no enforcement,” says Ramstad. “It’s unconscionable.”

Patrick Kennedy, a former Democratic congressman, pointed out there are no regulations telling the insurance companies how to comply. “A law without rules isn’t worth the paper it’s written on, and what that means is that insurance companies can continue to do business as usual.”

Crafting the rules is not that difficult. Advocates point out that broad outlines clearly state that insurance companies cannot impose more restrictive spending limits on mental health or addiction benefits than they impose on medical and surgical benefits. They cannot limit the frequency or duration of treatment any worse than what is provided for other treatments nor can they have discriminatory deductibles or exclusions.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Editorials
  • Spear smile.jpg Spear column: Hoffner case tested first and right rules

    The biggest news stories carry the biggest risk

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • SCC leads the way on work ed The importance of higher education has never been more pronounced than with the changes occurring in our economy, especially in manufacturing. Bloomberg News noted that manufacturing accounts for 80 percent of our exports and for every one high-tech

    April 20, 2014

  • Our View: Y helps kids with skatepark Thumbs up to the YMCA and supporters working quickly to open an interim roller sport park. When fire destroyed Chesley Roller Sports Park in February, the Y made the commitment to rebuild it this summer and fall. But the Y also moved to give skateboa

    April 19, 2014

  • Our View: Make course evaluations public There's been a considerable and legitimate debate over the years about whether students at a public university should have access to teacher and course evaluations. Whenever there is a legitimate debate, it's hard to be in favor of less information a

    April 18, 2014

  • Our View: Drawing the line after Ukraine Why it matters: Tensions are ramping up once more as Russia tries to dictate to Ukraine.

    April 17, 2014

  • Our View: Costs key in health care access While more uninsured got coverage, costs must be controlled to sustain programs

    April 16, 2014

  • Our View: Saving lives trumps booking drug users Changes to the drug laws would save lives of those who overdose

    April 15, 2014

  • Pay attention! Distraction a problem A few years ago safety experts focused heavily on the dangers of people talking on cellphones while driving. Some states passed laws prohibiting the use of hand-held phones in cars as a result. Today much attention is on motorists typing on tiny hand

    April 14, 2014

  • DEBATE MEDICAL MARIJUANA When Minnesota lawmakers return from their spring break, one of the issues they may face is medical marijuana. This has been kicked around too many times. We feel it deserves to be pushed from committee and debated on the floor. The issue has been tr

    April 13, 2014

  • Our View: Cities saved on garbage collection Mankato and North Mankato saved their taxpayers money by bidding on garbage service

    April 12, 2014