Some Disability policies blatantly discriminate against the mentally ill. Many policies set limits on the amount of benefits they will pay if mental illness plays any part in a person’s disability. Some will even terminate benefits after 24 months if mental illness is the reason the person is unable to work. It should be no surprise that even our government discriminates against the mentally ill by the amount they pay for medical services for mental illness. Currently, Medicare recipients pay 50% co-pay for mental health services. Therefore, the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 was a welcome reprieve for patients with mental illness.
Under the new law, Medicare recipients will eventually pay the same 20 percent co-payment for outpatient mental health services that they now pay for other types of medical care. The new rate will be phased in over 5 years. Medicare recipients will continue to pay a 50 percent co-pay until 2010; in 2010 and 2011, they’ll pay 45 percent; in 2012, 40 percent; in 2013, 35 percent; and in 2014, they’ll have a 20 percent co-pay. The lower coinsurance payments will no doubt lead to improved access to mental health care and much needed medications. It is now time for Congress to act on ERISA disability insurance policies that discriminate against the mentally ill by limiting or terminating benefits due to their mental illness.