Saturday, July 7, 2007

Bill ignores addiction


Good news if you live in North Carolina, you have insurance and you suffer from depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, anorexia, bulimia or are bipolar.

Bad news if you live in North Carolina, you have insurance and you suffer from depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, anorexia, bulimia or are bipolar and you are an addict and/or alcoholic.

This month, the North Carolina senate approved a sort of insurance parity bill that would require private insurers to provide mental health coverage comparable to coverage for physical illnesses. But North Carolina lawmakers excluded coverage requirements for one of the most devastating mental illnesses - addiction/alcoholism.

While North Carolina's parity bill makes for good headlines, it leaves about 30 percent of the mentally ill in serious trouble - even though they have insurance.

That's because research has shown that about 30 percent of people with mental illnesses, such as depression, bipolar and schizophrenia, are also addicts or alcoholics. Conversely, the National Mental Health Association estimates that about one-third of the alcoholics and over half of addicts suffer a companion mental illness.

Under North Carolina's proposed law, insurance will cover treatment for one of their mental illnesses, but not the other. That's kind of like telling a guy with high blood pressure and high cholesterol that you will pay to treat his high blood pressure but he's on his own when it comes to treating his high cholesterol.

The concern was that providing insurance coverage for substance abuse would costs businesses too much money.

What lawmakers and employers must understand is that when an addict/alcoholic has another mental illness, you must treat both illnesses because these illnesses are diabolically conjoined - the depression tells the alcoholism that another drink will solve everything. The alcohol - itself a depressant - tells the depression, "Thanks for giving me a reason to drink."

If you only treat a depressed alcoholic's depression and not her alcoholism, you're still going to have an alcoholic on your hands - just a happier one. And alcoholism alone costs employers about $100 billion every year.

Will someone explain to me how this kind of parity is going to save money?

author: Christine Stapleton
source: Palm Beach Post

1 comment:

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