Introducing: Our Legislative Alerts Column:
Your Future Depends on It!
With this issue, Joshua Lerner, PhD, will be writing a column for our newsletter on legislative issues that are coming up or being voted on concerning mental health. As well, he will occasionally address more general issues that affect us as citizens in a period when we are all facing attacks on our emotional, financial and medical well being. The Editors welcome your responses to these columns; your opinions count, too!
Maintaining Health Coverage under new laws? New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez is deciding whether to vote to extend two critical programs keeping people who have lost their jobs afloat. The jobs crisis is nowhere near over. Without continued aid to states, we're going to lose another 900,000 public- and private-sector jobs - which will pull the rug out from under our fragile economic recovery.
Second, continuing aid that reduces COBRA health care coverage costs by 65 percent is a lifeline for people who lose jobs and their families. The state aid and the health care assistance were created under the economic recovery act and they've done their jobs well. Congress failed to extend these benefits, as well as unemployment aid for jobless workers, before taking off for the Memorial Day recess. Members taking up the measure now appear ready to continue the emergency unemployment benefits for long-term jobless workers but some are balking at the other critical help.
If the U.S. Senate doesn't continue helping states with their Medicaid costs, state budgets will sink into an even deeper free fall with devastating consequences for health care, school funding and jobs. And failing to keep COBRA health coverage affordable to jobless families threatens their ability to survive unemployment.
On another front, beginning in July the Parity law goes into effect for many citizens. It does not go into effect for those who are covered under a union contract until such a time as a new contract goes into effect. For some of our patients this may mean more than a year. The law is complex, and it is going to be a nightmare trying to keep track of who is covered and who isn't. We must fight through our professional associations to have changes to the parity law which will see to it that everyone is covered no matter whether the costs have gone up or not. As well, we must fight to have those individuals who work for companies with less than 50 employees be added to those covered by the parity law. We cannot act as though the fact that the law is finally going into effect has solved all of our problems. We must continue to fight that those covered by the State of New Jersey are not exempted from coverage as is now the case. Finally, we will need to see how the insurance companies implement the law. What type of proofs will they require as to the necessity of the treatment that we think is appropriate for our patients? We have just begun the struggle around the issue of actual parity for mental health and substance abuse treatment with other health treatment.