Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Schmall on Mental Health Parity

New on SSRN: Lorraine Schmall, Real Mental Health Parity. The abstract:

Advocates for political and legislative changes to the American health system posit that getting more (or all) people insured will resolve the inequalities in health care. That overlooks the disparity in the present system between mental and other health problems. Compromised and dated attempts by Congress and state lawmakers to create mental health parity made insignificant changes in access to care for those with mental illness.This unprotected class has all the qualifications for recognition as suspect (or semi-suspect) but the Supreme Court has not regarded it so. Fear, stereotyping and lack of information has historically and contemporaneously led to discriminatory treatment and the embrace of policies and practices that have a tragically disparate impact upon the emotionally unwell. Insurers and benefit plan sponsors can discriminate without economic justification. Civil Rights laws aimed at protecting the disabled are better suited to problems connected with physical disabilities. Definitions and accommodations needed for the mentally ill have not been
advanced in decades of litigation. However, if the data in this research is credible, mental health parity is economically efficient, both in reducing other health care costs and in maximizing the utility of an employee with untreated problems.

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