Real Mental Health Parity

99 Pages Posted: 22 Apr 2008

See all articles by Lorraine A. Schmall

Lorraine A. Schmall

Northern Illinois University - College of Law

Date Written: April 21, 2008


Advocates for political and legislative changes to the American health system posit that getting more (or all) people insured will resolve the inequalities in health care. That overlooks the disparity in the present system between mental and other health problems. Compromised and dated attempts by Congress and state lawmakers to create mental health parity made insignificant changes in access to care for those with mental illness. This unprotected class has all the qualifications for recognition as suspect (or semi-suspect) but the Supreme Court has not regarded it so. Fear, stereotyping and lack of information has historically and contemporaneously led to discriminatory treatment and the embrace of policies and practices that have a tragically disparate impact upon the emotionally unwell. Insurers and benefit plan sponsors can discriminate without economic justification. Civil Rights laws aimed at protecting the disabled are better suited to problems connected with physical disabilities. Definitions and accommodations needed for the mentally ill have not been advanced in decades of litigation. However, if the data in this research is credible, mental health parity is economically efficient, both in reducing other health care costs and in maximizing the utility of an employee with untreated problems.

Keywords: mental health, parity, discrimination, insurance, employee benefits

JEL Classification: I18, J71

Suggested Citation

Schmall, Lorraine A., Real Mental Health Parity (April 21, 2008). Available at SSRN: or

Lorraine A. Schmall (Contact Author)

Northern Illinois University - College of Law ( email )

Swen Parson Hall
DeKalb, IL 60115
United States
815-753-0480 (Phone)

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