Sadly, in the aftermath of some horrible mass murders, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Columbine, Washington Navy Yard, and the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, we learned that the assailants were or had been receiving some sort of mental health treatments-- medications or counseling. Sadly, they were not enough to stop these tragedies from happening. In some of these cases, the access to care had been limited or even denied because of insurance policy limitations.
In the aftermath there were public cries for gun control. But 2nd amendment rights advocates and more powerfully the NRA successfully placed the blame on these assailants mental disorders. They claim the problem isn't gun control. It's that there's a deficiency in providing mental illness care.
Well, in a movement to address that situation, the Obama administration, as part of their overall health care initiatives and the Sandy Hook massacre have now produced President Obama's 23rd executive order. It's now official: Health insurance companies must cover mental illness and substance abuse just as they cover physical diseases.
The administration had pledged to issue a final mental health parity rule as part of an effort to reduce gun violence. Officials said they have now completed or made significant progress on 23 executive actions that were part of a plan announced in response to the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., last December.
"For way too long, the health care system has openly discriminated against Americans with behavioral health problems," Sebelius said in a telephone conference call with reporters. "We are finally closing these gaps in coverage."
What's the significance of this executive order? Quite simply, in the past, medical health policies (which included limited emotional,psychiatric, drug and sex counseling) had different payment schedules when it came to non-mental health issues. There were tremendous policy limitations to the number of visits per year as well as significantly increased deductibles -- the patient's co-payment for each allowed visit. Oftentimes that priced a visit beyond the means of a patient.
Basically you could see a doctor as many times as you needed for say, kidney stones, liver disease, heart and high blood pressure issues. But if you had anxiety, phobias, psychotic episodes, those were on a different and far more limited schedule. That's now all in the past. Now if you are sick, physically or mentally, you can get the care you need without the fear of using up your visits.
Will this cut down on tragedies like those listed above? Possibly. Until we get guns out of unqualified people's hands we're never going to be without reckless, wanton shootings. But it's about time that drug users and the mentally/emotionally challenged get the same treatment as someone with cancer or pneumonia.
The bottom line, is the Presidents order AND the Affordable Care Act extend the parity protections for those participating in individual and small group health insurance plans.
The Republicans and gun zealots were blaming the lack of care for the mentally unstable. Hopefully now they'll applaud Obama's actions to provide these people care. If not, when the next gun massacre happens, the public may just revisit sane gun control measures and weapon's registration.