Blue Shield of California is dropping coverage of psychiatric
hospitalization for 121,000 policyholders, stunning
mental health professionals who are campaigning to require insurers to
cover mental illness no differently from
other diseases. 

The drive to win mental health "parity'' got a big boost when
President Clinton, at the first White House
Conference on Mental Health, announced that insurance plans for 9
million federal employees and their
dependents had to offer equal benefits for physical and mental

Blue Shield's decision, which is limited to customers who buy health
insurance on their own instead of through
their employer, is a step in the wrong direction. 

This decision reflects the archaic and primitive view that if you
don't see a person with bandages or crutches, he
must not be in pain. Mental illnesses can be just as painful and
incapacitating as any physical injury or illness. 

My sister has battled clinical depression for all of her adult life. I
have seen firsthand the incredible pain and
misery that she has endured. I can just imagine how her torment would
have been magnified if she also had to
deal with the financial stress of not having an insurance plan that
covers mental illness. Fortunately my sister
does have and insurance that covers her mental infirmity. 

This decision will further stigmatize those who suffer from mental
diseases. Blue Shield is sending out the
message that mental illnesses are all "in the mind" It's saying that
as a society we shouldn't waste our money on
someone inflicted with bipolar disorder or a schizoaffective disorder.
We should spend our health care dollars
on people with real illnesses, like cancer or AIDS. 

Wake up Blue Shield. The 21st century is right around the corner.
Mental illnesses are just as real as physical
ailments. Insurance companies should be required to cover all physical
and mental illnesses. 

In my humble opinion, Blue Shield is leaving itself open to a class
action lawsuit. This is a clear case of
discrimination against those afflicted with a mental disorder. If Blue
Shield doesn't respond to common sense
and decency, I hope that the ACLU will take them to court. 

1999 Robert Paul Reyes