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- A Legislative and Public Policy Blog by Mental Health America of Greater Houston
Based on his experience as a prosecutor and his observations of the mental health needs of so many in the criminal justice system, Congressman Joe Kennedy III has a plan that he believes can help enforce the parity laws on the books.
Congressman, thank you so much for joining us. In December you filed your Behavioral Health Coverage and Transparency Act and, unlike in Texas where we face large problems due to our large uninsured population, this act primarily goes after folks with insurance looking to access services.
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What particular aspect really raised this on your radar screen? Before I ended up running for office, my first campaign, I was a prosecutor. For others suffering from mental illness or substance abuse, the way you can do that is to treat the underlying condition. So use the tools that you have in your tool kit to help address the underlying concern.EDC Nation: Training with Cory and Erika
The question then becomes how do we make sure there is access to mental health care throughout our society? And as we start peeling back the layers on this, from my perspective on it, there are two main segments. There is the public side of things where folks get their healthcare from the federal government, Medicaid primarily. Medicaid is, of course, the largest payer of mental health care services in the country.
Then there is, of course, the private side doing private insurance. So we have the combination of the Mental Health Parity Act, which says we have to treat mental health care like we do physical health care, and then the Affordable Care Act, which says you have to now cover mental health care.
That leads to a huge expansion in coverage for states, particularly those who took the Medicaid expansion, which not all states did.
So there are systemic issues that are affecting our ability in this country to have patients that are suffering from mental illness to actually access mental health they need.
One other step for you: So when we start talking about trying to get access to care, insurance is an important part to this, but we have to make sure you can actually get a doctor and stay treated.
So the bill that we filed is a first step in trying to basically force insurance companies to divulge information around how they are actually covering mental health care.
As you know, there are many people that are suffering from mental illness who get their insurance claims denied at a much higher rate than those suffering from typical, physical maladies such as a broken leg or a broken arm. So this bill will hopefully shine a light on some of those practices and force insurance companies to actually make this transition to focus on prevention and treatment, rather than triage at the back end of mental health.
Part of the way we crafted this is to say, look we are not trying to add any additional burden to these insurance companies, but disclose the methodology at which you end up making your decisions and make sure that information is available and digestible to regulators so we can actually start to shine a light on this and ask are things actually going as they should — which case there might be something else that needs to be done — or are they not?
And the idea behind this bill is that if insurance companies can essentially get away with not covering people at the back end when they are in need of mental health care, then there is essentially no reason for them to make the investment they need to actually force the focus of treatment to move up that scale to prevention and treatment rather than just focusing on the back end for folks that end up in a crisis point.
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So what we want to do is try to take a step back and say how are we going to address access to mental health care in the system? It needs a full-on continuum of care adjustment.
How do we flesh that out? We make sure that you are actually abiding by the terms of the regulation that are already in place. Do you see your bill possibly being able to hitch onto one of these bills that seem to be making some headway down the track?
This is something that I think Democrats and Republicans agree on, that our mental health system is in crisis. So we hear about this all the time; the question is how do we go about addressing it, again in that full-on continuum of care model? I hope that this legislation will address this, either as a standalone or perhaps as an amendment to one of those other pieces of legislation that we have been working hard on.
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We have been working with some of our colleagues on it and they have been doing a really good job. There is also a really tricky issue on how to make these reforms across the entire system and some of my colleagues and I are trying to dive into this so hopefully we will get there.
Well, thank you, Congressman so much for your time today and for your work on this really important issue that I hope gets the traction that it needs. Like you said, this is a critical first step to ensuring that those with private coverage get the help that they need.
Thank you for your time too, Bill. It's the breadth of empathy from the get go that was sure to beguile the pond, the situational awareness.
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What's that you say? Gay people aren't really people, or if they are, they're "you people" and should stop their "you people" mindless agitation Actually the pond's research, a humble poll admittedly, suggested that nine out of ten people thought the Shanahans wrote drivel for the lizard Oz. But enough of the pond's objective scientific research techniques, because we have to admire the way "It is an obvious ploy to quash the thing" seems only to be emanating from the Billistas But a quick and cursory read of the headlines would suggest the devil is already out of the bottle and stomping around on the ratbag right, with Erica naturally showing the way Delay, obfuscate, hand wring, confuse and call on Tony, and if he's not to hand, there's always a Cory willing to set the pace Yes, because your average fundamentalist homophobic jihadist will always patiently explain that people's rights can easily be dismissed as a fringe, trendy issue And speaking of barking mad fundamentalists, there's also the Hansonites Oh yes, there's a lot more mischief to come, and according to election promises made, that mischief was certain to come before the end of the year.
Still, election promises are only made so they can be broken, and in all the excitement of the headlines, the pond plumb forgot that the sweet reptilian angel was still rabbiting on about how all was peace and light and good keep on saying it's good, or you might end up in the corn field.
Which is of course code for the sensible middle needing to abandon all sense and sensibility, and end up in extremist bigot and homophobe la la land, like your average sensible fundamentalist Catholic or sensitive fundamentalist Islamic or Greek Orthodox forgetting about Lesbos and homosexuality contributing to military morale Now some might wonder how Safe Schools got tangled up with the notion of gay marriage, but it's all one in the homophobic discourse.