washingtonpost.com: We must treat mental and bodily health the same. It’s a matter of human rights.


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Rosalynn Carter, former first lady of the United States, is an advocate for mental-health care through the Carter Center. Patrick J. Kennedy, former U.S. representative (D-R.I.) from 1995 to 2011, is the founder of the Kennedy Forum and author of “A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction.”

Almost 10 years have passed since Congress required that insurers offering mental-health services for illnesses of the brain, such as depression or addiction, do so no more restrictively than illnesses of the body, such as diabetes or cancer. And yet most insurers today still do not comply with the law.

Mental-health parity is more important now than ever before, considering the rising numbers of overdosesand suicides nationwide. But state and federal investigations have shown that mental-health and addiction treatment are frequently far more onerous to manage.

This has become an issue of human rights. Too often, people seeking these treatments are denied coverage or don’t receive enough treatment because of insurers’ overly aggressive managed-care techniques and subsequently die from overdoses or suicides. In other cases, families — desperate to keep their loved ones alive — take out second mortgages, deplete retirement accounts and drain college funds to pay for treatment services their plans won’t cover.

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