Mental Health Parity

Parity, the term used for equal treatment of mental disorders and physical ailments in health care and insurance coverage, is a prime legislative objective for the TAA. For historical reasons TS has been classified as a mental disorder in the reference lists used by health maintenance organizations and health insurers. This is so despite the fact that TS is an inherited, neurobiological disorder characterized by involuntary movements and sounds. Both neurologists and psychiatrists treat the disorder, using the same medications. As a result of the arbitrary classification of TS in the mental health category, many people with severe TS have been denied or greatly limited in receiving treatment or reimbursement for expenses of treatment relating to hospital stays, office visits, and medications.

Congress took a limited step toward parity in 1996 by passing a law that prohibits annual and lifetime dollar limits on a person’s mental health care that are lower than the limits for general medical and surgical services. In the 110th Congress, a Mental Health Parity Act was introduced as (H.R. 1424) and (S.558), then passed into law as the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Act of 2008- to offer mental health coverage as part of health insurance packages to make sure that coverage be equal to the coverage in the plans for physical illnesses.

The primary argument given against parity is increased health care cost. However, a 1998 report to Congress from the NIMH found health costs increased one percent or less for businesses and states that adopted parity. Also, a Congressional Budget Office analysis had predicted only a 1% increase in health insurance premiums would result from its implementation. The health plan premium increase appears small in comparison to the costs to the United States from currently untreated mental health.