By Beverly K. Eakman
February 2, 2010
We’ve all heard of “urban sprawl.” But there is another kind of “sprawl” Americans should find more worrisome: legislative sprawl.
Mental health parity is one such example. Government-mandated parity of mental and physical ailments for insurance coverage is a back-door route to nationalized health care. Special interests have been pushing government to implement parity for years and last Friday, January 29, the Obama Administration acquiesced. Health plans will henceforth be required to provide (not merely “offer”) mental-health benefits that contain no zingers, such as separate annual deductibles or lesser rates for psychiatrists and social workers. Instead, according to Andrew Sperling of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), health insurers will be obliged to give the same level of coverage for treatment of emotional angst “as they do for cancer, diabetes and heart disease.” Mental health has morphed into a cottage industry with scores of advocating organizations and lobbyists — NAMI, the American Psychiatric Association, Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders (CHADD), the National Education Association and, of course, pharmaceutical companies. Industry bigwigs have repeatedly insisted that mental-health issues are no different than physical illnesses. The problem is that one cannot verify a mental illness — not with an X-ray, a blood test, a urinalysis or by any other means. Unlike brain injuries, Alzheimer’s and other clear-cut brain impairments due to strokes, high fevers and birth defects, mental illness per se is purely subjective. Perhaps someday researchers will discover issues at the cellular level that definitively cause a certain subset of behaviors, or which exacerbate stress, but at the moment they cannot. So it is no wonder that the various medications and therapies directed at curing, or even alleviating, emotional distress have virtually no track record of success.