Massachusetts released a report late last week showing that full mental health parity legislation to bring the payment of mental health conditions in line with physical health conditions would add negligible costs. Historically, health insurers and businesses have discriminated against equal treatment of mental disorders because they could — the stigmatization of such concerns made it easy to suggest they shouldn’t receive equal treatment coverage.
The new report blows away any remaining legitimate criticism of such legislation:
The Department of Public Health evaluation – based on a review of past studies, an actuarial analysis, and interviews with Massachusetts insurers and providers – projected that the mental health parity legislation, which overwhelmingly passed the House Monday, would add between 0.1 percent and 0.3 percent to the cost of insurance. That works out to between 46 cents and $1.39 per member per month.
This is affordable for most employers and heck, even if they passed on the majority of that increase to plan members, it’s affordable to most families. $1 a month to get the same coverage as a health concern? So if you have posttraumatic stress disorder (something not covered under the current legislation), you’d be covered by your health plan for treatment of it. Sounds like a win-win situation.
Ah, but the opponents of equal coverage can still find something to complain about, right? You bet they can. So they trot out a physician suggesting that “‘Percentages are very deceptive,’ [Dr. Marylou Buyse] said, noting that the figures in the report translate into a statewide annual increase of $12.9 million to $38.8 million.” Who does Dr. Buyse represent? Why, the health care plans in the state, of course! They don’t want the government telling them that they can no longer discriminate against people with certain mental health concerns. They want to continue their policy of discrimination, because it’s simply more profitable not to provide coverage for these additional disorders.
But Buyse’s argument is empty. Percentages cannot be “deceptive” — they are simple statistical facts. The total dollar amount is a superfluous figure to trot out, because nobody thinks in terms of those large numbers. Numbers, by the way, which are a tiny drop in the bucket compared to the state’s overall budget or what employers currently pay in taxes or for their health plans.
The state’s report finally puts to rest the real deception — that such parity coverage would cause an undue financial burden on employers and businesses.
Massachusetts is again leading the way for the rest of the nation in terms of healthcare policy. I hope the U.S. Congress follows suit.
Read the full report of the Mass. Dept. of Public Health, Division of Health Care Finance and Policy: Review and Evaluation of Proposed Legislation Entitled: “An Act Relative to Mental Health Parity,” House Bill No. 4423 (PDF)
Read the full article in The Boston Globe: Mental health bill costs to be minimal, study says