5.0 What They Say:

Psychiatric treatments are cost effective and “every dollar spent on mental health care reduces other medical costs by 5 to 80 cents.”26

5.1 What They Don’t Say:

  • The costs of mental health care are staggeringly 150% to 300% higher than other health care services. A 1997 study published by the prestigious Employee Benefit Research Institute, stated, “Employers are finding the costs of an episode of mental health care to be two to three times the cost of an episode of care for other types of ailments.”27

  • When insurance coverage for mental health care began in the 1950s, coverage was comparable to that for general medical services. Aetna and Blue Cross/Blue Shield insurance companies offered generous coverage for mental health services. However, they found that while their total health care expenditures tripled between 1966 and 1975, mental health care expenditures increased by over six times.28

  • According to a recent study by the Health Enhance Research Organization, a consortium of employers, “depressed” employees incurred 70% more medical costs, while those reporting high stress had 46% higher medical costs than employees without such problems.29

  • A 1999 study by Dr. Gail Jensen and Dr. Michael Morrisey showed that chemical dependency treatment coverage increases insurance premiums by 9% on average; coverage for psychiatric hospital stays increases premiums by 12%.30

  • Dr. Mark Schiller, psychiatrist, states that “historically, psychiatric and substance abuse facilities quickly appear to take advantage of new insurance reimbursement sources. These facilities go on to promote their services extensively, leading to further increases in expenditures and ultimately higher insurance premiums.31[Emphasis added]

  • Consider also that one of the primary treatments and costs under mental health coverage is psychiatric drugs that do not cure and frequently can mask real and undiagnosed physical problems an individual has. Texas, for example, now spends more money on medication to treat mental illness for low-income residents than on any other type of prescription drug. Those costs have more than doubled since 1996, when mental health medications were the third largest category of expenditures.

    In 1999, these drugs made up the largest category of expenditures among the top 200 drugs, accounting for $148 million; $37 million was spent on three of the newer antidepressants and $57 million on three anti-psychotic drugs alone. The rising costs in this and Medicaid expenses have put a squeeze on the state budget.32

  • While Oregon to date doesn’t have mandated mental health coverage, in 1994, it added 100,000 uninsured people to the Medicaid program by placing limits on the Medicaid benefit package—more people were covered, but for fewer services.33 The Oregon Health Plan (OHP) covers mental health and substance abuse treatment. This alone led to a substantial increase in prescriptions for psychiatric drugs, where dosages were higher than recommended.

  • So dramatic was that in January 1998, the Department of Human Resources proposed a plan to supervise prescriptions funded by OHP with the view to saving taxpayers $700,000 annually.34 With Medicaid, the misuse and over-prescription of psychiatric drugs became prevalent: The OHP now spends $6 million a year on just one antidepressant. In 1997, the manufacturer of this drug spent $30 million on direct to-consumer marketing of psychiatric drugs.35

  • Wherever leverage is given to mental health services, increased costs follow because of the mental health industry’s reliance on psychiatric drugs, rather than addressing or curing the problem the drugs are prescribed for.

  • The Wall Street Journal reported on October 5, 2001, “Mental health is already a big expense for employers. Brand-name antidepressants have been among the most commonly prescribed medicines that companies pay for, and prescriptions are certain to rise as a result of the attacks.”36 Already, since the September 11 attacks, new prescriptions for anti-anxiety drugs rose 25% and for antidepressants it jumped 17% in New York alone.

  • Spending on drugs generally is rising at three times or more the rate of inflation.37

    6.0 What They Say:

    The role of private insurance is critical to servicing all traumatized Americans and mental health parity is urgent to address the insurance needs and mental health services necessary to combat the psychological trauma from terrorism.

    6.1 What They Don’t Say:

  • More than adequate funding has already been released from existing sources. Health and Human Services has released $6.8 million for crisis mental health and $21 million to supplement existing mental health systems already in place. Up to 2.5% of the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Act funds for local communities experiencing mental health emergencies was released.38

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has released $22.7 million and has promised more funds.39

  • The mental health industry has a record of greed when it comes to spending on disaster funds, primarily intended for the relief of physical and financial suffering. Of the $4.6 million donated after the Columbine High School shootings in 1999, $775,000 was given to Jefferson Center for Mental Health and $425,000 went to pay for 9 full time counselors for Columbine and its feeder schools, while the families of the slain victims received $50,000 each.

  • Families of the physically injured were given $10,000 each.40 The counselors received the same amount as the families who lost their loved ones.

  • In 1999, a San Diego psychologist, Dr. Michael Mantell, reported that following the Columbine High School shootings, “the kids were not talking to counselors. They were talking to religious leaders and among themselves. There were a lot more counselors there than counseling going on.”41

  • In the wake of the current terrorist attacks, a New York Times article reported that even most school children in New York City have resisted psychological counselors’ attention. “The students are saying, ‘Can’t we just do math?,’” according to Dr. Ricky Greenwald from Mt. Sinai Hospital’s Child Trauma Program.42

  • The mental health lobby has gushed that 71% of Americans felt depressed from the attacks. Alarming enough statistics, until it is realized that the survey behind this statistic was conducted just two to six days after the attack, when the majority of Americans were still in a state of shock, glued to their television sets and suffering perfectly normal reactions to the horrific tragedy. Who needed a survey to find out that Americans were suffering? The survey sampled 1,200 people, which, by a quantum semantic leap, concluded that an alarming 71% of Americans have been harmed.43

  • Similarly, a U.S. Senate hearing on trauma and terrorism held on September 26, was told that nearly 50% of individuals in the path of the 1995 Oklahoma bombing developed a psychiatric disorder, usually post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, secondarily, major depression. However, only 182 of the 1,098 survivors of the bombing who registered their names with the Oklahoma State Department of Health, were interviewed; 45% of these—or 81 people—reportedly had psychiatric problems in the six months following the bombing, with 34% (27) reportedly having PTSD.44 The president of the National Mental Health Association—a man who is funded by pharmaceutical interests—claimed that the country now needs “a complete mental health infrastructure.”

  • Yet psychiatrist Sally Satel in The Wall Street Journal warned against his comment and the “sensationalizing mental health professionals” spreading gloom and doom about the American people’s seeming lack of resilience, stating, “What we need—and thankfully seem to have—is a morally galvanized and focused citizenry, not a population turned inward on its alleged psychological fragility.”45

    Next: Mental Health Parity Analysis continued

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