U.S. Senators Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) today introduced legislation to end discrimination against Medicare patients who suffer from mental illness.
Current Medicare beneficiaries are restricted to 190 days of inpatient psychiatric hospital care throughout their lifetimes, directly limiting the care they are eligible to receive. This arbitrary cap on benefits discriminates against the mentally ill as there is no such lifetime limit for any other Medicare specialty inpatient hospital service. The Medicare Mental Health Inpatient Equity Act will eliminate this limit and equalize Medicare mental health coverage with private health insurance coverage.
“Despite the tremendous inroads we have made in ending the discriminatory treatment of higher copayments for mental health services under Medicare, it is abundantly clear that we still have barriers to overcome,” said Sen. Snowe. “Eliminating the lifetime cap on inpatient psychiatric hospital care takes another critical step in ending the unfair distinction between physical and mental disorders. This legislation will better ensure that seniors are receiving care in the right place at the right time.”
“This arcane and outdated policy runs counter to every battle we’ve fought to equalize mental health care in this country,” Sen. Kerry said. “Seniors living with mental health illnesses should not be forced to suffer without treatment because they’ve maxed out on the number of eligible days of care randomly set by Medicare. I’m grateful to have Olympia Snowe as my Republican partner in this effort, and we will work together to finally end this discriminatory practice.”
Forty eight national organizations have endorsed the Medical Mental Health Inpatient Equity Act including AARP, the American Hospital Association, the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems, and the American Psychological Association.
End Mental Health Discrimination
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