The emotional damage inflicted by Hurricane Katrina has prompted the American Hospital Association and some 250 other health organizations to reiterate calls for the passage of effective mental health parity legislation in this session of Congress. In an Oct. 14 letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-IL, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-TN, the groups said loopholes in the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996, which requires group health plans to fund mental health benefits at the same level as medical and surgical benefits, allow for higher co-payments, deductibles, and co-insurance payments for mental health services. For this reason, extending the law before it expires on Dec. 31 "is no remedy and would further perpetuate the discrimination faced by those with mental health needs." Studies show that up to 30% of major disaster survivors may develop mental health problems if early mental health services are not provided, the groups said, noting that children are particularly vulnerable.
[ via AHA News ]