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Mental health parity, the Affordable Care Act, and guns

In the wake of Newtown, we will be examining mental health parity.

Two things I’d like to discuss….

A few days ago a person came into my pharmacy to get a refill on her prescription. She just got new insurance and was happy because she has been unemployed for some time and has been paying full price for her prescriptions. I had filled a few of her prescriptions with this insurance and got a very reasonable $5 copay. But then I filled her antidepressant. It was rejected – not covered. I called the insurance because sometimes there is an alternative drug that will be covered and I could contact the doctor and explain. But, no, this drug and any antidepressant like it was not covered. I filled it the old way for cash.

When the person came back, I mentioned the problem and then she remembered what they had done and she explained. The new insurance examined her past history and gave her two options… she could take full coverage at an exorbitant premium price or sign away her mental health coverage and reduce the premium by two thirds. She opted out of the mental health, meaning no psychiatric coverage and no prescription coverage for mental health drugs.

Obamacare will eventually do away with the pre-existing condition denial….eventually, but not till 2014 for adults. Children cannot be denied coverage currently. The slow, drip, drip, drip coverages that the ACA moves through is frustrating. And it is because Republicans in Congress would not allow the law to be fully covered in the budget unless it was done this way. Keeping costs down. And keeping people out of full coverage.

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I bring this up because, in the wake of Newtown, we will be examining mental health parity. Paul Wellstone and Jim Ramstad had worked through their entire careers to make this happen. They got some coverages passed but insurance companies still fight it where they came. The same is true with the new Federal Health Insurance. 

We have got to treat mental health with equal importance to our other health issues. It is imperative.

The other thing that caught my attention today was this:

A loaded .357 Magnum handgun was confiscated Wednesday from a staff member’s locker soon after instruction began at an elementary magnet school in Minneapolis, police said.

I truly believe that this person meant well. In the wake of Newtown, this person’s thoughts were about protection. But what happened instead is that somebody saw the gun and reported it to the administration. The person was sent home and is on administrative leave — and the school went into cautionary lockdown. (Classes held but children kept in classrooms).

Weapons are prohibited at the school. But obviously, this person felt the need to bring more “protection”. How a gun in a locker could help a situation that comes on suddenly and can reak havoc in less than 15 minutes is questionable…..but, again, I have the feeling the person was looking to help in some way.

We have to be careful how we “help.” We need a more cautious and deeper examination of what we can do.

Guns and mental health need to dominate the conversation for awhile and we need to look for good, solid ideas — not kneejerk reactions.

This post was written David Mindeman and originally published on mnpACT! Progressive Political Blog. Follow Dave on Twitter: @newtbuster.

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