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Letters to the Editor
Don't Play Up Small Stuff
Psychiatric News
Volume 41 Number 7 page 37-37

There were two examples of hypocrisy in the first four pages of the January 6 issue. On page 3, our president was congratulating himself on the partnership with Aetna regarding payment for screening certain employees for depression. The cruel irony of Aetna's agreeing to encourage greater identification of and referrals for depressed employees is that Aetna's mental health benefits were "managed" by Magellan, whose primary goal seemed to be to ensure that as few patients as possible would get paid as little and as slowly as possible.

On page 4, an article on the federal parity law extension was also presented as a great accomplishment. In fact, the federal government is the most blatant discriminator of mental health—reimbursing psychiatrists at 50 percent of claims for most psychiatric care compared with 80 percent for other types of claims, forcing consumers to pay more for psychiatric treatment than other types of health care and obviously discouraging that care severely.

Until there is true parity and fairness in insurance coverage of all types, I think we should spend more time and effort on acknowledging how much needs to be done rather then pretending that these small accomplishments really mean anything significant. So long as we allow the for-profit insurance model to exist, we will be struggling to justify our worth to an entity that sees us only as impediments to their revenue stream.

Please consider more coverage on the real battle we need to be fighting: the establishment of a single-payer, not-for-profit national health insurance system. Physicians for a National Health Plan, whose Web site is<www.PNHP.org>, has been leading this fight for the last 19 years and continues to be the most coherent voice in the health care debate.

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