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Last Updated: 11/20/2017
 

 Articles of Interest

Hearings open in Michigan Legislature on Mental Health Parity
Gongwer News Service, May 14, 2003
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The first of three public hearings on requiring health insurance companies to provide parity for mental health coverage opened before the Senate Health Policy Committee with witnesses trying to "put a face" to the issue.

In sometimes emotional testimony, witnesses described the struggles they had getting insurance coverage for treatment of depression and bipolar disorder, while they had no difficulty getting coverage for physical conditions.

And the director of the medical and disease program at the University of Michigan said those states that have established parity for mental health treatment have not seen their overall health insurance costs increase just from parity. Providing proper treatment for diseases such as depression can help boost employee productivity since a major cause of workplace absenteeism is depression, said Thomas Carli.

So far 35 states have adopted some form of mental health parity in health insurance laws. The issue has been a major concern for a number of organizations, including some business groups, for fear that mandating such coverage would drive up the cost of health insurance and force more companies to drop coverage.

However, all the members of the Senate panel indicated they could support SB 4 and SB 5, leading the chair, Sen. Bev Hammerstrom (R-Temperance) to joke that perhaps the committee should vote out the bills instead of conducting the hearing.

Mr. Carli said that until the 1980s, and the rapid increase of health insurance costs, there was largely parity between coverage for mental and physical health ailments. But as efforts were made to control cost increases, most insurance plans put on stricter limits on mental health coverage.

This came as medicine began making giant breakthroughs in diagnoses and treatment of mental disease, he said. "While we have seen an erosion of benefits, we have seen an explosion in knowledge," he said.

While most families will have to deal with incidents of mental health treatment, he said, there is still a stigma associated with mental health. That partly helps explain why more women attempt suicide, but more men actually commit suicide, he said, because men are less likely to seek treatment.

Deana Strudwick of White Pigeon, a social worker, said that she spent several months in New York City following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks counseling law enforcement workers who were overwhelmed and when she returned she felt she needed counseling herself, but her insurance did not provide enough coverage. Her need for counseling increased following the death of her father and a miscarriage, but her insurance does not provide enough coverage even though it covered all the costs associated with her miscarriage.

And Kathryn Lynnes of Grand Rapids, who ran for Congress as a Democrat in the 2002 election, said insurance has failed to cover her hospitalizations despite the fact that she has been struggling for more than 20 years with being bipolar.

Her medications now would cost $800 a month, she said, except that her psychiatrist helps her by providing her with samples.

"When you are that depressed you don't want to be faced with the option of death, bankruptcy and humiliation because I can tell you how that will turn out," she said.

Michigan Senate OKs School Flexibility Bill
Gongwer News Service, May 14, 2003
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Michigan school districts would have greater flexibility in spending at-risk money under legislation the Senate passed 37-0 Wednesday.

SB 367 is one of several bills designed to help school districts save money by giving them greater autonomy in making spending decisions. Some of the more controversial measures in the package include provisions allowing schools to stop providing professional development for teachers and to hold fewer than 180 days of school so long as they hold the same number of instructional hours.

To be able to exercise greater flexibility in using at-risk monies, however, a school would first have to show that all children in all grades were meeting improvement standards set under the federal No Child Left Behind Act before the state would clear an application to employ the money for purposes other than specifically helping poor children.

Both public and charter schools could submit applications to allow for greater flexibility in using the funds.

The measure would add to those funds, monies intended to reduce class sizes.

According to Senate Republicans the state now receives about $314.2 million in at-risk funds and another $26.2 million in class reduction funds.
  

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