Close, But No Cigar

Mental health bill receives widespread support, but details still blurry

Finally, mental health is getting the respect it deserves.

Yesterday, Congress approved legislation that will compel employers and health insurers to provide the same benefits for mental illnesses as they do for physical ones. It hasn't been an easy bill to pass. For 15 years, the mental health bill has been stuck on the House and Senate floors, where it's been rewritten several times. Now, almost everyone is behind the legislation, including both parties, the President, businesses, insurance companies and the medical community. And the bill's advocates are thanking science for transforming the public's view of mental illness, which led to its passage. Representative Patrick Kennedy praised science for destroying "the myth that this stuff is a choice," according to a Washington Post article.

The myth may be busted, but that doesn't mean the legislation is a shoo-in.

Congress still has to agree on how to pay for the bill, which experts estimate will cost more than $3.4 billion throughout the next 10 years. It's unlikely that they'll do so before they recess in a few days. (Come on, this is the same Congress that took off for summer vacation before it provided proper flood relief funding for Iowa.) The bill also doesn't specify which mental illnesses insurers must cover—most people agree that depression and schizophrenia must be included, but others doubt the validity of diseases like autism and ADD. (Despite this study and this study. Oh, and this one too.) In the meantime, people will mental illnesses will still have to pay more for co-payments, and receive fewer benefits—even if everyone agrees that they shouldn't have to.