Advocates say mental health ‘Parity’ law not fulfilling its promise
When Michael Kamins opened the letter from his insurer, he was enraged.
His 20-year old son recently had been hospitalized twice with bipolar disorder and rescued from the brink of suicide, he said. Now, the insurer said he had improved and it was no longer medically necessary for the young man to see his psychiatrist two times a week. The company would pay for two visits per month.
“There was steam coming out of my ears,” Kamins recalled, his face reddening at the memory of that day in June 2012. “This is my kid’s life!“
His son again became suicidal and violent, causing him to be rehospitalized eight months later, said Kamins, a marketing professor at the State University of New York, Stony Brook. Kamins is suing the insurer, OptumHealth Behavioral Solutions, which disputes his version of events and denies that it left the young man without sufficient care.
Seven years after Congress passed a landmark law banning discrimination in the treatment of mentally ill people, many families and their advocates complain it stubbornly persists, largely because insurers are subverting the law in subtle ways and the government is not aggressively enforcing it.
The so-called parity law, which was intended to equalize coverage of mental and other medical conditions, has gone a long way toward eliminating obvious discrepancies in insurance coverage. Research shows, for instance, that most insurers have dropped annual limits on the therapy visits that they will cover. Higher copayments and separate mental health deductibles have become less of a problem.