Science/Medicine
7:04 am
Sun February 26, 2012

Michigan mental health advocates ask for insurance parity

An effort is under way to require autism coverage by insurance companies in Michigan. But mental health advocates want coverage to be mandated for all mental illness.

The autism coverage issue has gotten a lot of attention because Lt. Gov. Brian Calley’s daughter has autism, and he supports the insurance mandate.

But others say lawmakers need to go further.

Dr. Leigh White is assistant director for the Olin Student Health Center at Michigan State University.

She says people are often blamed for their mental illness.  

"We know these illnesses are biologic," she says. "We know that with early detection, early treatment, lives can be saved and lives can be changed. It bothers me as a physician to see this false division."

White says while the physical aspects of strokes and multiple sclerosis do qualify for coverage, those same patients are often not covered for depression resulting from those conditions.

"I've had a number of students who I have recommended that they go into the hospital because of suicidal thoughts, depression -- and they have refused hospitalization largely because it would have put them so far into debt."

White says Michigan is one of the last seven states without parity legislation.

The Mental Health Association of Michigan says about two million people in the state have health insurance that doesn't include, or provides inadequate treatment for mental illness.