Saturday, March 01, 2008

Make a call for mental health parity

Last week I learned, to my shock and horror, that because my daughter had anorexia, we cannot get health insurance, except through a large group plan (i.e., through an employer). We can't become freelancers and buy our own health insurance because, as our agent said, "You'll never pass underwriting."

What we need in this country is real true health care reform, not some bullshit foisted on us by the greedy health insurance companies. And I hope to God I live to see the day it finally happens. In the meantime, we can do something now by helping to pass a federal mental health parity law. The U.S. Senate has already passed its version; now the House of Representatives is getting ready to debate its version.

Please take a few minutes to call your Representative and advocate for passage of H.R. 1424, coming up for debate this Wednesday. The Eating Disorders Coalition--one of the most effective advocacy groups in the eating disorders world--suggests saying something like this:

I am a constituent of Representative ______ and a supporter of the Eating Disorders Coalition. I am calling to ask that the Representative vote for H.R. 1424, the Paul Wellstone Mental Health & Addiction Equity Act. Parity is a fair and affordable solution to insurance discrimination against people with eating disorders and other mental disorders. It will save lives and families.

But you can say whatever you want. Just make the call. Please. In this era of pressure politics it really makes a difference for the folks in Washington to hear from the little people.

The number to call is 866-727-4894.

(Not sure who your Representative is? Go to this site, click on the little hand on the upper left hand side of the page, and enter your zip code to find out.)

All of us who have found ourselves in DSM at one time or another thank you kindly.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, but here's the beauty of mental health parity for someone who's already been diagnosed with an ED--can't have it if you can't get insurance. And if you've had an ED, congrats, you have officially removed yourself from the private insurance pool.

Harriet said...

Is that true across the board? Once you have an ED, you can never get private insurance?

Is there some statute of limitations, maybe?

I cannot believe this, actually. Well, I don't want to believe it.

Anonymous said...

It's not just ED; it's a lot of other things, too. (For all I know, it's everything.) I have a non-serious congenital nerve disorder and no private company will underwrite me, either. I'll always have to get insurance through a company.

It's one of the major things broken about the system. The more you need the insurance, the less likely they are to give it to you.


thoughtracer said...

It's true for bipolar disorder. It's true for say, cancer and heart disease. Mental health is the worst, though.

Harriet said...

That jibes with what our insurance agent told us. Cancer: bad. Heart disease: bad. Mental health issues: The worst.

This system is so broken.

Anonymous said...

Everything I'm reading is saying that this bill was already abandoned some number of months ago.

I cannot find if it was incorporated into some other bill.

Anonymous said...

Oh, don't even get me started about the state of mental health care availability in this country and the prejudices of people against those of us who are "wired differently." The resulting brain drain, all the wasted talent and energy, is just the saddest thing in the world to me. There are many wonderful practitioners out there, and there are many people who need their services. Money is what keeps them apart. And it sucks so hard.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't HIPAA provide some provisions for this? As far as I understand, you are entitled to an individual policy (regardless of preexisting conditions) if the following are true:

1) you have had 18 months of coverage without a significant break (63 days or more)

2) you are either ineligible for coverage under COBRA or have exhausted COBRA coverage

3) you did not lose your group coverage because of fraud or refusing to pay your premiums

even if the new policy has a period of exclusion for pre-existing conditions, you can apply your previous coverage to that period.

This link has some additional information. most of it deals with moving from one group plan to another, but there is also some information on protections for people who are moving from a group plan to an individual plan.

Anonymous said...

I think it depends on your state. I live in Michigan, and BC/BS doesn't underwrite- they don't turn anyone down. They asked if I smoked and how much I weighed. I lied about my weight, becuase I am close to a 30 on the BMI, but healthy and fit and I didn't want to pay more becuase people think weight makes you sick... anyway, I have full coverage, it's not too expensive, the only bad part is I have no mental health coverage unless I'm inpatient or for substance abuse. I just need run of the mill talk therapy every once in a while (who doesn't?) so I pay out of pocket for that. But, I get a discount.

Harriet said...


that link doesn't work. is there another one, maybe?

kelly, i suspect you are right. here in wisconsin, right next door to michigan, we don't have the same rights. another family i know signed up 3 of their 4 members for private insurance, and the mom, who had cancer, had to be insured through the state's high-risk pool, which is very very expensive catastrophic coverage. it sucks.

i worry about my daughter and her future. whoever is elected next damn well better take this on and fast.

Anonymous said...

This is what I love about you, Harriet. You don't just bitch the way I do, you form a plan and you take action. It's admirable.

Another key factor, I think, which is sort of along the lines of what I've been blogging about lately, is anonymity and the things we give away about ourselves on our personal blogs. By admitting to my past eating disorders and using my blog as a therapy of sorts, I'm opening myself up to rejection from health insurance companies who know how to Google. Kitty is likely doomed by your NYT pieces. THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT, don't get me wrong -- this is simply more evidence of a horribly unjust system.

It makes me ill.