Patient Advocacy is a Right, Not a Privilege

Some seriously ill patients have found themselves unable to obtain the treatment recommended by their physician, because of a dispute about insurance coverage. Such disagreements usually involve complex contractual issues, which are typically difficult to resolve. A patient, who is already experiencing the stress and anxiety that always accompany serious illness, should not be subjected to the additional stress of doing battle over the terms of his or her insurance coverage. Americans without health insurance, or little insurance, can really be making decisions on whether to pay the car payment or that month’s supply of medication. With skyrocketing prescription medication prices, most average low to middle class Americans have trouble paying for the very pills they need to stay healthy. No one should have to make that decision.

illness. His Mental Hygiene Movement was the forerunner of some of the most influential mental health advocacy groups that exist today, including the National Mental Health Association and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

The issue of mental health parity is a conflicting one for many patients and their insurance companies. The issue creates a social inequality between those with mental illness and those without. By setting a standard of medical treatment for one or the other, it has many beginning to think that both the government and insurance companies are discriminating against those with mental illness.

While many believe that those with mental disorders should be treated on the same level of treatment as those with physical disorders, not much as resulted of this argument. The reason this debate exists is because of the fact that our government believes that mental disorders are in some cases, less real and more the fault of the victim, then physical disorders are. When that notion is completely false, this legacy lives on. A 2004 national survey concluded that 78 percent of Americans believe it is unfair for health insurance policies to limit mental health benefits.

Mental parity defines the idea of making sure mental health is fully covered by insurance plans the same as physical health. Without every given health insurance company, coverage for mental disorders is always inferior to those who are treated with physical concerns. Many argue diagnosis and treatment is more difficult because it is harder to define what is actually going on with the patient’s head and what needs to be done to treat the condition. The complexity of the procedures is the basis for the cause of less coverage in many cases.

A recent medical study confirmed the idea that poor mental health can cause our bodies to age faster and for illness to occur more frequently. This statement alone should alert insurance companies on coverage for mental health; they are costing themselves more money in the future for not treating patients. This research should be a positive step for those who wish for treatment for mental health conditions.

In 1999, the White House held a Mental Health conference. The president directed benefit parity to be accomplished by 2001 contract year. However, that never was accomplished. He suggested full coverages for mental illness and treatments that were clinically-proven to be effective. Copays would be compared to that of other physical illnesses.

By researching the topic, it was discovered that health companies could hire specialized mental health care workers to provide successful care to patients. They also used research from the National Institute of Mental Health to indicate that there was a growing consensus on treatment protocols and how effective managed care delivery systems actually were. In the end, they decided that they could implement these things in an affordable way for all.

NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness), fights for this issue in
Washington
daily. Founded in 1979, they are the largest national grassroots mental health organization that’s main focus is to improve the lives of people living with serious mental illness. These people have faith that NAMI is their voice on mental illness topics and one exists within every state across the country. They hope to improve the quality of life for those who are affected by these diseases. Mental parity advocacy groups like NAMI believe that mental disorders are brain-based and should be treated on that basis as a physical illness.

The concept of mental health advocacy has been developed to promote the human rights of persons with mental disorders and to reduce stigma and discrimination. It consists of various actions aimed at changing the major structural and attitudinal barriers to achieving positive mental health outcomes in populations.

The emergence of mental health advocacy movements in several countries has helped to change society’s perceptions of persons with mental disorders. Consumers have begun to articulate their own visions of the services they need. They are increasingly able to make informed decisions about treatment and other matters in their daily lives. Consumer and family participation in advocacy organizations may also have several positive outcomes.

Over the last 30 years the needs and rights of persons with severe mental disorders have become more visible. Families and, subsequently, consumers developed organizations enabling their voices to be heard. They were joined and supported by a range of nongovernmental organizations, many mental health workers and their associations, and some governments. More recently, the concept of advocacy has been broadened to include the needs and rights of persons with less severe mental disorders and the mental health needs of the general population.

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