Last updated on April 19, 2014 at 17:21 EDT

Patients And Providers Plan Heartfelt Testimony For Chicago Congressional Field Hearing On Mental Health And Addiction Parity

July 25, 2012

CHICAGO, July 25, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — 32-year-old nurse Danielle Moles of La Grange, IL, has spent the last four years in the fight of her life – against the eating disorder that has taken her health and the insurance companies she feels have denied her the treatment she needs to get well.

Moles will be among the patients, lawmakers and mental health advocates to speak at a Congressional Forum taking place on August 6th, 5:00-7:00 p.m., at the Union League Club of Chicago (65 W. Jackson Blvd) to urge federal regulators to fully equalize mental health and addiction benefits with other medical health care benefits, referred to as parity.

“An eating disorder is not something where you can just take a pill and get better,” says Moles. “My insurance company has not approved my doctors’ recommendation for extended residential treatment, so my disease has dragged on for more than four years and caused a multitude of other serious health conditions.”

Once a successful young professional, Moles is now unemployed and living with her parents. Like many patients who struggle with eating disorders, Moles has spent her life’s savings on medical bills and still worries how she will pay for future treatment.

“It is common for our patients to be denied the level of care they need by their insurance companies,” says Susan McClanahan, Ph.D., co-founder of Insight Behavioral Health Centers in Chicago and a leading patient advocate. “People struggling with eating disorders and substance abuse are most affected by this antiquated way of thinking because they often require residential treatment. It defies reason that these mental health issues would be viewed differently than other chronic health conditions, like cancer or heart disease.”

The Honorable Patrick Kennedy and the Honorable Jim Ramstad, former Members of Congress, and co-sponsors of the federal parity law will be among the speakers, which will include local advocates, patients and experts. The Chicago Congressional Field Hearing is one of seven being held across the country.

The hearing will focus on the implementation and enforcement of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. Local consumers will testify on the barriers that they continue to face in accessing mental health care and addiction treatment through their health insurance – barriers they do not encounter with other forms of health care.

Individuals and families that are denied coverage for mental health and/or addiction treatment are expected to call on federal regulators to issue final regulations to prevent persistent and ongoing insurance discrimination against those needing behavioral health benefits. The Parity Act also has significant implications for the military population.

“A majority of our veterans will receive their care through the private insurance system instead of just the VA, and this is added reason for proper implementation of parity for our patriots’ ‘signature’ wounds of traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Patrick Kennedy, former member of Congress and Lead Sponsor of the Parity Act. “I am dedicated to seeking full implementation of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and look forward to adding my voice to the voices of the people in Illinois touched by this disease.”

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act requires equality between insurance coverage for medical/surgical treatment and mental health/substance abuse treatment. The regulations require health insurers to ensure that financial requirements (deductibles, co-pays, etc.) and treatment limitations (visit limitations, day limits, medical review procedures) for mental health and substance abuse treatment are no more restrictive than the requirements or limitations that are applied to medical/surgical benefits.

Mental health and addiction disorders are staggering in their scope. Approximately 54 million Americans live with mental illness, and 26 million with addictions, with a large number experiencing co-occurring mental illnesses and addictions. Yet many Americans with employer-sponsored health plans include mental health and addiction benefits with more expensive financial requirements (such as copayments and deductibles), more restrictive treatment limitations (such as limits on the number of covered outpatient visits or days in the hospital, more stringent processes for medical reviews of treatment), or excluded diagnoses.

For more on the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 visit the Parity Implementation Coalition website at: http://parityispersonal.org.

Media Contact: Debra Baum 847.767.1206

SOURCE Insight Psychological Centers

Source: PR Newswire