Congress Should Not Dictate Mental Health Benefits
September 26, 2007
Irvine, CA--By a unanimous vote, the Senate has approved the Mental Health Parity Act of 2007, which would forbid employers to offer less favorable insurance coverage for mental illness than for physical illness. Support for a similar measure is widespread in the House, so passage of a new federal law this year seems likely.
“This bill violates an employer’s right to set the terms of the benefits he offers," said Thomas Bowden, an analyst at the Ayn Rand Institute. “The bill’s supporters point to the obvious fact that mental illness is as real and as destructive as physical illness. But employers have no duty to offer coverage for all ills, or any ills; they have an absolute right to limit or deny coverage on any basis. For example, many employers are reluctant to foot the bill for what they see as open-ended therapies whose great expense is not justified by any certain cure.”
Back in 1996, Congress enacted the first federal Mental Health Parity Act, which prohibited employers from imposing lower annual or lifetime limits for mental treatment, as compared to physical treatment. The new bill, which would apply to employers of more than 50 people, mandates equal coinsurance, co-pays, deductibles, and equal limits on frequency and duration of treatments.
“This legislation shows the insidious process by which creeping government regulation transforms independent employers and insurance companies into servants of politicians,” Bowden said. “Health care is not a right. It is a value offered by physicians, insurance companies, and employers who have a right to set their own terms of trade. The government should be phasing out, not expanding its coercive regulatory control over medical care."
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Thomas A. Bowden is an analyst at the Ayn Rand Institute, focusing on legal issues. A former lawyer and law school instructor who practiced for twenty years in Baltimore, Maryland, his Op-Eds have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Philadelphia Inquirer, Miami Herald, Los Angeles Daily News, and many other newspapers. Mr. Bowden has given dozens of radio interviews and has appeared on the Fox News Channel's Hannity & Colmes.
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