Addiction is a medical disease, and is recognized as such by the AMA and virtually all public health groups, including the government. The more research that comes out, the more we know that addiction creates fundamental changes in the way our brains’ operate; and the more we understand that without treatment, few addicts have much chance of leaving the harms of drugs or alcohol behind them.
So it strikes me…and a lot of other people…as kind of funny that although we know that addiction is a disease–and it’s recognized as such by all public health organizations–that our insurance companies can somehow opt out of paying for treatment when we need it?
Thankfully, it strikes a lot of lawmakers as a bit funny too, and over the last ten years or so federal and (to varying degrees) state legislatures have been increasingly demanding parity for mental health and substance abuse treatment needs. What parity means is essentially equality. That mental health and substance abuse treatment is considered to carry equal weight, and warrant equal types of coverage to physical conditions like cancer or arthritis or what have you. Now, we can be fairly certain that without mandated legislation our friendly neighborhood insurance providers are not just going to start increasing our coverage, and although the federal government does put forth some pretty strong recommendations for mandatory parity, state insurance law superseded these federal guidelines. An awful lot of people in need of mental health or substance abuse services just have the misfortune to live in one of the many states yet to adopt full parity legislation, and to put it bluntly…are getting the short end of the stick on this one.
No Parity Legislation:
- North Dakota
Great Parity Legislation
And every other state just sort of falls in between, offering some parity coverage, but nowhere near inclusive access to all in need.
So although state insurance parity legislation debate sounds pretty dull, it is relevant, it could have a major impact on your life, and if you happen to live in one of the many states yet to adopt full party legislation, you might want to let your lawmakers know how you feel about this.
Mental health and substance abuse treatments are not superficial, not cosmetic and not extravagances; they save lives, better families and improve our communities. The sick have rights, they pay for insurance coverage like the rest of us, and when they do get ill, whether with a physical or mental heath condition, they deserve to be taken care of. They deserve the treatment that’s going to get them better.