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From the Editor’s Desk

A Matter of the Freedom of Choice

Gail Armstong
Gail Armstrong
Executive Editor

t has been said that it is human to err.

But it becomes difficult to fathom repeated mistakes, especially when they are actually destructive to oneself or others.

For example, if you had a choice to keep paying premiums on a family health care plan that had repeatedly come under fire for massive fraud and patient abuse, would you do so?

Chances are you would not. Nor would anyone else in their right mind.

Even if you didn’t have any choice, as that was the only health plan you could get, you would likely be behind a serious campaign for reform.

For those reasons, and particularly with health care reform a top issue for Congress, it is more baffling than ever to see vast funds continually squandered on a criminally flawed mental health system. The past year alone witnessed enough evidence of massive fraud and abuse in that system to rival the S&L swindles of the ’80s. Indeed, the widespread and systematic fraud on health care by psychiatric professionals may well go down in history as the worst racket of this century’s last decade.

Although many legislators are reluctant to waste yet more funds in the mental health system, some are being deceived into doing just that. Under a banner of “parity,” they are being convinced to make it the law that insurance provides the same quantity of benefits for psychiatric practices as it does for conventional medical services.

Parity can sound fair, but closer inspection reveals the unsettling truth, as detailed in our cover story.

And of all the exigencies of our nation’s health care system, at least one bottom-line question can be asked: how big a problem does parity really solve? (And who does it really benefit?)

As Money magazine reported in late 1998, “survey after survey” shows that most Americans are quite happy with their health care.

True parity lies in the freedom of choice, not in forcing all taxpayers and insurance companies to subsidize psychiatry. Insurance plans and psychiatry’s wares alike can survive or perish through the process of natural selection, whether by an individual, an employee, or the collective bargaining process of unions.

That freedom thrives on people making informed decisions, and those decisions depend as much on truthful information as they do on common sense.

People are not naturally self-destructive, and do not tend to support schemes rife with fraud and abuse. They just do not err in that way. Unless, of course, they are misinformed and misled.

In this edition we document how Americans are being severely misinformed and misled in the push for parity. We investigate the eye-opening campaign behind the lobby and public relations campaign.

Crucial information is not being conveyed to legislators, media and the public on this issue.

Only by being fully educated can we expect to make the best decisions for ourselves, our families and friends. We encourage readers to inform themselves fully on the subject, to act, and to make themselves heard.

If the same amount of time and resources spent coercing the subsidization of psychiatry were spent investigating and prosecuting fraud in the mental health system, we would begin to realize a genuine service to all Americans and our future generations.

As always, we welcome your comments and views.
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