APA Executive Director for Professional Practice Russ Newman, PhD, JD, joined a coalition of health-affiliated organizations, consumer groups and a representative of small business at an April 19 press briefing in Washington, D.C., to oppose Senate passage of the Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization and Affordability Act (HIMMA).
In his remarks, Newman said that the legislation threatens to dismantle a network of state-level protections for people with mental health disorders that has taken over 30 years to build. Those state protections include laws in 32 states mandating minimum mental health benefits; laws in 42 states and the District of Columbia giving people the right to choose psychological services beyond just psychiatric drug treatment; and mental health parity laws in 39 states prohibiting arbitrary limits on mental health services.
Even with these state-level protections, untreated mental illness costs the U.S. economy an estimated $79 billion annually in lost productivity and absenteeism, Newman said, noting that cost could increase if HIMMA becomes law and people lose access to mental health care.
"We think that now is the time to be adding legal protections to assure that people with mental health disorders get the treatment they need, not eliminating protections," Newman said.
This spring, the APA Practice Organization has also been working with its grassroots advocacy network of members and has been co-chairing a coalition of more than 100 consumer and provider groups to argue against the law. Their efforts include visits to Senate offices on Capitol Hill; organizing a grassroots e-mail writing campaign among APA members to make the case against the bill to U.S. senators, governors and state attorneys general; and encouraging members to speak against the bill at senators' constituent meetings and write op-eds and letters for local newspapers.