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MENTAL HEALTH: Insurers should pay for psychiatric beds

Letter by Christopher Staeheli, Tacoma on April 2, 2014 at 2:02 pm | No Comments »
April 2, 2014 2:02 pm

Re: “Mental health funding: ‘Little dent’ in big problem” (editorial, 3-30).

I am puzzled as to why the shortage of psychiatric inpatient hospital beds is a government problem. I could be wrong, but I believe, about 85 percent of us have health insurance (before Obamacare). Most health insurance policies cover 30 days of inpatient psychiatric treatment.

Herein lies the problem: There are not enough inpatient psychiatric beds in Washington for those with health insurance who might need them. So we are paying insurance companies for something they actually cannot provide.

Imagine paying for a time-share condo that you can never use because the time-share condo does not exist. In the 1980s and ’90s, several health insurance companies did not keep enough in reserve to cover expenditures for actual medical care and went bankrupt. As a result, legislation was passed requiring health insurance companies to keep enough in reserve to cover all possible health care expenditures.

The shortage of psychiatric beds is somewhat similar: There are not enough beds in reserve for patients who need them, but we have paid health insurance companies for the possible need for those beds. Health insurance companies are collecting for a service that does not exist.

Also puzzling, in Pierce County we have two major “nonprofit “ health care systems building multiple care facilities that appear like luxurious mountain lodges. Why couldn’t these “nonprofit” hospital systems also build psychiatric inpatient care facilities for adults and children?

Astute readers and legislators: A solution exists without government.

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