While all of the talk in Washington – and the state level as well – seems to be about budget cuts, two new pieces of legislation were introduced that would expand benefits for people with mental illness.
The first, introduced by U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, and Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, lifts the cap of 190 days for inpatient psychiatric hospital care on Medicare services.
The bill was introduced last year with support from the American Psychological the AARP but never gained traction. It was re-introduced this year in the aftermath of the Tucson shootings that left six dead and U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords seriously wounded.
A second bill comes out of the House from U.S. Rep. Grace Napolitano and targets mental health services for youth.
The Mental Health in Schools Act would launch a federal grant program with money awarded to school districts to fund the hiring of additional mental health professionals. The focus would be on prevention.
About 20% of children and adolescents in the U.S. suffers from mental illness, according to a news release from Napolitano. Most exhibit symptoms by age 14 – but fewer than half seek professional help.
“We have to continue to move forward on mental health,” Napolitano said. “We have had a successful pilot program in my district for ten years, and now it’s time to take action. Too often we let stigma and shame silence the debate and bring progress to a halt.
Do Americans really pay attention to health issues? A new poll released by the Kaiser Family Foundation this week suggests that they don’t.
An amazing 48% of the public believes that the health care reform law has been repealed, or say they aren’t sure whether it’s still in force. Twenty-two percent say it’s absolutely been repealed, while 26% aren’t sure. The other 52% correctly said that the law is still intact.
Among Republicans, 33% believed the law had been repealed. Among Democrats, 12% thought it had been repealed and 25% of independents agreed. The House voted to repeal the law but the House bill is likely to die without Senate approval.
Overall, 48% of Americans remain opposed to the health care reform law. The sticking point seems to be the insurance mandate, which 67% of Americans would like to see repealed.