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The requirement for equal treatment in insurance coverage would apply to health plans that cover more than 50 employees -- potentially reaching 113 million people nationwide.
Health officials contend that equal protections for mental health conditions would lead to a healthier, more productive work force.
"There's a phenomenon ... where you've got a psychiatric illness and you're able to get around but you can't do your work at the same quality you did before," said Dr. Nada Stotland, president of the American Psychiatric Association.
"Many workers today are in the service industry. If a person on the other end of the line is depressed, they may have shown up to work and they may be present, but they will not necessarily make us happy about the company that we're calling. They'll be slow, unhappy and maybe irritable, and their powers of concentration won't be good. So, more and more companies want to see their employees treated."
Overall, the parity legislation is expected to cost the federal government about $3.4 billion over 10 years. That's because employers will have more health expenses that they can deduct from their income taxes.
On the Net:
National Alliance on Mental Illness: http://www.nami.org/
America's Health Insurance Plans: http://www.ahip.org/
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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