Mental-healthy parity is a bad idea

But Dubya, in another sop to big-government lovers, supports it. Mental-health parity, which I’ve written about previously, would force insurers to cover mental illnesses to the same extent they cover physical illnesses.

Many states already have laws on the book which say that if an insurer offers mental-health coverage, they have to offer the same coverage as they do for physical illnesses. Guess what happened? Lots of insurance companies stopped offering mental-health coverage altogether. No big surprise.

In this case, you have consumers who clearly prefer less mental-health coverage in exchange for either a lower premium or more physical coverage. To regulate this is to deny consumers their right to choose their own health-care coverage. But worse than that, yet another mandate will just raise the cost of buying insurance in the first place, denying many people even the choice of what kind of coverage to buy.

But that’s part of the plan, isn’t it? Mandate coverage for all kinds of things until it’s so expensive no one can afford it. Then some genius steps in says, “Gee, why can’t anyone afford health insurance. Maybe the government should pay for it!” There are many other complicating factors, including tax law, Medicare, Medicaid, government regulation of medicine, etc. But the simple point here is that parity may help some people who suffer from mental illnesses in the short run, but in the long run, will price many people out of insurance market entirely.

Part of the debate about parity, which has been going on for years, is about how much premiums would rise as a result of the legislation. Each side wants to twist the figures to its own benefit. I’m no statistician, so I can’t say which is right. But the people who support parity say, “It’s a small price to pay to make sure that people have access to mental-health coverage.” That misses the larger point, however, which is that by making sure that some people have access to a certain portion of a certain type of coverage, others are denied the flexibility they want in an insurance package.

It should be no suprise that more and more employers self-insure to escape these regulations. Of course, they are then scapegoated too, for exploiting so-called loopholes.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Dubya made a deal with Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) on this, in exchange for help on something else. Lord knows that he needs all the help he can get in a Democrat-led Senate.