Monday, March 03, 2008

Will Kline ultimately support Ramstad and Wellstone’s Legacy ?

To Jim Ramstad (R-MN-03) "It's not just a policy issue, it's a matter of life and death for a lot of people." Meanwhile, fellow Minnesota Republican John Kline (R-MN-02) describes Ramstad's legislation as "overreaching".

The legislation, H.R. 1424 - Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007, has 25 Republican co-sponsors and additionally the complete Democratic side of the Minnesota delegation -- Ellison, McCollum, Oberstar, Peterson, and Walz.

Now, it would be wrong to imply that this is good legislation because it has Paul Wellstone's name on it, or because Jim Ramstad is the primary Republican sponsor, but instead it should be based on Ramstad’s comment … "it's a matter of life and death for a lot of people."

Mental health is just as relevant (and potentially damaging) as physical ailments. Addiction comes in many forms and can impact not only the individual but family, friends and co-workers.

The House bill would establish a federal parity as a minimum and not pre-empt states that have stricter parity provisions in place (46 states currently have laws regulating mental health coverage.) Parity equalizes care between mental health and medical benefits which are important since many people are still left without sufficient mental health coverage. The legislation does not force mental-health insurance upon private carriers. Rather, insurers who offer any treatment for mental illness must use the same basic rules that they apply to the treatment of cancer or broken bones or other physical ailments. For example, a managed health-care company cannot impose a higher co-payment for a session with a clinical psychologist than it charges the same patient for a visit to the internist.
There are reasons to be disappointed with this bill … but more so because it does not go far enough. Small Business (less than 50 employees) are exempt … that makes no sense … if mental health is a problem, it needs to be addressed … should physical ailments also be discriminated based upon the ailment?

But overall, this legislation – like most legislation – is a compromise.
As usual, some will exaggerate what may be covered … would jet lag and caffeine addiction be covered? Those are just two of the reasons that some will use to vote down this legislation.

Much like the SCHIP debate, I suspect that the real concern is that some do not want to engage in health care coverage legislation for fears of where it may lead.

This legislation is needed. Anyone who has fought with an insurance company over benefit coverage will attest, or has seen the movie SICKO knows, having insurance is not the question … the question is what is covered by the insurance policy. Every day people ignore mental health and addiction problems because of fear … fear of admitting that there is a problem and fear that the treatment will not be covered.

Insurance companies denying coverage is wrong.

If you are in John Kline's or Michele Bachmann's districts, please call them to express your support for this legislation ... the vote may happen on Wednesday.

Regardless of the ultimate outcome, Jim Ramstad should be congratulated for his efforts.

FOOTNOTE : Since John Kline is on a "Pork-free diet", it should be noted that this legislation has NO EARMARKS.

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