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Columbia legislators lobby for mental health insurance.

January 10, 2002
By: Kathryn Handley
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Many people suffer from depression each year, but so far they've been suffering alone--at least financially. But now, thanks to initiatives from Columbia legislators, the brain may finally get more than just a headache from insurance companies.

Rep. Vicky Riback Wilson, D-Columbia, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee for Health and Mental Health, was set to file a mental-health parity bill Thursday. Rep. Tim Harlan, D-Columbia, is the primary co-sponsor of the bill.

"We are certainly particularly concerned with health issues," Wilson said. "We know how important it is to have mentally and physically healthy people."

The bill would require insurance companies to provide some mental-health coverage to be included in general-health coverage policies. The current system requires a separate fee for mental-health coverage.

Harlan said mental-health problems are the primary reasons for worker absence, 10 times more than diabetes, a widespread condition that already receives much funding and attention.

Wilson said it is unfair to provide insurance for injuries to other body parts but not to the brain. The brain cannot be separated from the rest of the body, she said.

"It's time all Missourians have access to the health care they need, regardless of the part of the body affected," she said.