Dec 13, 2017 in Medicine

Equal Treatment of Mental and Physical Illness


Insurance companies should be required to treat mental illness the same as physical illness. The mind and body, while connected, are separate. They exist separately and do not merge. The debate in this essay underscores the fact that insurance companies treat mental and physical illness differently. This essay is to discuss why the two should be treated equally.

Recent scientific studies and culture transformations have distorted the difference between the two types of disorders. There have been continued debates on whether treatment for problems like addiction or depression should get the same cover by insurance companies as, say, cancer, heart disease or diabetes. In short, this essay advocates for insurance companies to provide mental and physical health insurance parity (Kemp, 2007).

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 5- 10 million people suffer from anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorders in the U.S. Most states surprisingly, do not necessitate insurance companies to cover the cost of mental health services for patients with such disorders (Bellenir, 2005). Doctors confirm that anorexia is a brain disorder that can be treated with appropriate mental and physical treatments. But insurance companies disagree that there are no prescribed principles for these disorders. It is this lack of medical practice that gives them the power to determine whether or not a recommended treatment is medically practical.

Normally, insurance companies cover physical symptoms such as kidney failure, ulcers, rupture of the esophagus, heart failure, and high blood pressure but not the mental health of the patient or a disorder, are not generally or only partially covered. If eating disorders are not treated in good time, they progress to physical effects that cannot be treated. Many Patients at that point need the most dire and expensive medical treatments. Managing the disorder itself increases the likelihood of recuperation and could actually be more gainful for insurance companies (Rochefort, 1989.

In United States, a bill was passed in relation to this. It bans insurance companies from setting different limits on treatment for physical and mental health problems especially when the limit for mental health problems is lower (Billitteri,1997). This parity raises tricky questions. For example, is a throat infection (physical) comparable to a person who is just hopeless (mental) in relations to benefits to pay for treatment? If mental illness continues for a long time, how do you set average coverage equal to that for physical illnesses?

There has always been a separation between treatments for mental and physical illnesses. In most cases, mental cases have been given lower priorities, for example, days when the mentally ill were put in jails or poorhouses, later, public asylums. The deinstitutionalization movement of the 1960s put an end to this. However, there is still no equality in service delivery as emotional illness is still not considered equal to physical ailments. Some countries health care systems like Canada and United Kingdom have merged these two classes of health care, and the Scandinavian countries are treating mental illnesses as medical diseases.

Mental health, usually, is a result of proper nutrition, psychosocial wellbeing of the body, all of which are majorly a result of deliberate decisions, made by individuals (Allen, 2010). Wrong decisions made in life haunt individuals and may cause anxiety in later life.  Mental Illnesses like other diseases are among the leading causes of death. These conditions are also a direct result of emotional instability, poor eating habits; include too much consumption of illicit drinks, drugs, and substance abuse.

Research shows a link between disorders like severe depression or schizophrenia, and physical brain abnormalities. These disorders affect mood and behavior. There are lots of biological connections which define the mental illness concept as brain illness. There are similarities between mental and physical diseases. In both conditions, there is reduced quality of life, suffering, the need for help and a lacking of skills. Many people however still question the authenticity of calling any mental ailment a disease. A majority argue that mental problems like addictions are behavioral, social or even a choice, but not a disease. This is contrary to mental health professional’s opinion, the founders and followers of Alcoholics Anonymous maintain.

Attitudes on mental illnesses and addiction have altered considerably. This has been noted since the start of avocation for the mentally ill and for parity, and it led to broad coverage of mental illnesses in the insurance plans. Modern culture has reduced social stigmas and even glamorized rehab. This has strengthened the idea that people with mental illness or addiction may be victims, and not always the perpetrators. Cancer patients however still seem far more considered compared to the schizophrenic or addicts.

Scientific advances are very significant in helping the parity cause. The neurological and biological connection gives strength to the belief that mental illnesses are real and urgent as physical illnesses. If it is curable, it can be treated, and there is a finite quality to that treatment and its cost. Therefore, insurance companies should be more willing to pay for it.

According to McGuire & Henry (2001), Insurance industry experts say that the precise impact of the parity on private health insurance premiums is complex to calculate, but increases group plans, with some costs passed to employees. In the United States, the Council for Affordable Health Insurance released a report which estimated that parity formulas were likely to increase rates by about 5%- 10%, on average (Freeman & Path are, 2005).  A study examining the costs linked with the parity program, found that it in reality did not increase the cost of mental health services. The plan is said to be related to the one planned in the House bill.

Parity is encouraged as the costs of treating mental illness are considerably more than the price associated with physical illness. Insurance companies charge deductibles when filing claims for mental illness but not for physical illness. Treating mental illness benefits large populations of consumers. Demand is however much more than the supply of treatment available. Charging deductibles and co-payments is therefore necessary in order to appropriately ration treatment to individuals in greatest need. The amount of money spent by the concerned parties of mental ill patients influences the extent of the care that is received by the consumer.

Private medical insurance plans discriminate medical coverage for mental illness. Mental health insurance parity is basically an issue of justice fairness. There should be no difference in priority for treatment in mental and physical diseases. Mental illness can occur in anyone, at any time, and therefore, requires appropriate and adequate care. There is need equal treatment, and need mental health insurance parity.

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act that was passed in the US eliminate the practice of disproportionate health treatment. Unequal treatment has denied persons with mental disorders and untreated substance use from accessing significantly important treatment services (Improving mental health insurance coverage, 1965). Providing parity avails insurance coverage for mental health disorders and substance use equally to other physical illnesses like hypertension, asthma, and heart attacks. The equitable coverage improves access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment services. Millions of people with mental illnesses or substance use disorders barely receive the needed treatment to get well. The lack of health insurance coverage for mental illness has created a large gap in treatment services. Improving the coverage therefore, will help more people get the care they need.

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