Friday, October 24, 2008

Most expensive part of bailout bill may not be housing

The mental health "parity" provision stuck in the bailout bill had absolutely nothing to do with subprime mortgages but it may well turn out to be the most expensive item in the bill. Mental health providers will pour millions into lobbying and lawsuits to expand their "right" to more taxpayer money.

There are other problems with the parity argument. Consider:

•The American Psychiatric Association claims that more than 50 percent of Americans are now or will at some point be mentally ill. This estimate, a major increase from years ago, is virtually unlimited since there is no way to accurately confirm or disconfirm "mental illness."

•Supporters of parity celebrate the new law as signaling the end of "stigma," but they fail to consider that stigmatization is a marvelous negative reinforcer for undesired behavior, some of which is called "mental illness."

•Substance disorders are arguably a function of behavioral choices and in no way constitute diseases to which insurance should apply. Such self-destructive behavior is best explained by mindset, personal values and how a person copes with his or her environment. Incidence varies by cultural context, and people can clearly stop or control their addictions through an exercise of free will. Not so when it comes to bodily illness; one can no more will away cancer, heart disease or diabetes than he or she can will their onset.

•Severe conditions such as schizophrenia have been used to typify "mental illness," when it in fact constitutes no more than 1.5 percent of those labeled "mentally ill." A more prototypical mental illness, "adjustment disorder," is a name given by psychiatrists to people who have problems in living - hardly worthy of health insurance and an inducement against confronting one's problems and choices. The same could be said for "impulse-control disorders" such as gambling too much (called "pathological gambling") and other supposed mental disorders.