There is no such thing as a free lunch. The more mandates you cram into health insurance, the more costly it is, and the more uninsured there will be. If the House’s version of the Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act becomes law, it passed last night, the CBO estimates that private insurers will be saddled with $3 billion in new annual mandates by 2012. The worst part of the House bill is the codification by reference of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) which includes the following ailments:

  • Caffeine-induced sleep disorder
  • Caffeine intoxication
  • Sibling relational problem
  • Academic problem
  • Substance-induced sexual dysfunction disorder

In 1999 President Clinton incorporated the DSM-IV into the Federal Employee Health Benefit Program (FEHBP), however, the regulation implementing the order only requires carriers to cover”all category of conditions” in the DSM-IV. By contrast, the House bill requires coverage of “any mental health condition” – much more expansive and ultimately expensive language.

While rhetorically packaged with phrases like “mental health equity” and “ending the shadow of discrimination” sound good, they do nothing to reform America’s health care system. All they do is raise costs and limit consumer choice and competition. Rather than adopt bad health care policy, Congress should allow consumers to choose not only their health insurance coverage, but also the kinds of medical treatments and procedures they want at the prices they wish to pay.