The following statement was provided by Senator John McCain to the National Alliance on Mental Illness in response to a questionnaire they sent Senator McCain in his capacity as a candidate for the U.S. Presidency in 2008.
The next President will face a great challenge due to the rising cost of health care of all types. America has the finest doctors and medical science, and the treatment of mental health has shared in these advances. However, as with other aspects of our health care system, spending on mental and behavioral health treatments is rising rapidly. The challenge is to ensure high quality care, establish incentives to control the growth of costs, and thereby permit greater affordable choices.
Mental health is a necessary complement to physical health in all aspects of our daily lives. Fortunately, the path to greater quality and lower costs is to recognize this fact and where possible provide incentives to treat physical and behavioral health together. Chronic disease is a dominant component of the growth in spending on health care and many of our citizens with chronic illnesses have a behavioral health problem as well. For example, untreated depression raises dramatically the cost of treating the physical ailments of a diabetic. A sensible goal is to design reimbursement for taking care of the whole patient, whatever ails them, and recognize the essential role mental health treatment plays in the overall health of the patient and the reduction in physical health needs.
I have stressed the central role of personal responsibility in leading to lower health care costs. Personal fitness and better lifestyles, especially reduction in addictions of all types – food, narcotics, or cigarettes – can yield dramatic improvements in the cost of chronic illness and high‐cost medical care. We can do a better job of treating addictions, but we also have an obligation to do a better job of teaching our children the benefits of good lifestyles and the perils of addictive activities.
I have a strong record fighting for the needs of America’s most vulnerable including those seeking better mental health. I have consistently supported public housing programs that play a significant role in helping meet the housing needs of many seriously mentally ill Americans, and have been a leader in the effort to eradicate homelessness among our Nation’s veterans – many of whom are fighting mental illness. I believe America needs strong leadership and a commitment to bold solutions to address the challenges that it faces. We can provide quality mental health that is more responsive to our needs and is delivered to more people at lower cost.