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Statement by Laurie M. Flynn, Executive Director National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)
NAMI views the President’s proposed managed care Consumer Bill of Rights and Responsibilities released today as a necessary first step, but believes ongoing work is needed to assure quality and accountability for individuals with severe mental illnesses and their families.
We commend the President and the Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry for their hard work in hammering out an agreement that closely mirrors many of the individual rights NAMI has fought for historically. For example, choice of health providers, including access to specialists for serious medical conditions, and continuity of care for chronic or disabling conditions have long been top priorities for NAMI’s 168,000 consumer and family members.
Today’s health care delivery system is rapidly changing, bringing with it an unprecedented shift to managed care in both the private and public sectors. Nowhere is this transformation more profound than in the publicly funded mental health system. We have kept a vigilant eye on managed care providers, and earlier this year released the results of a landmark study that found the industry fell grossly short on its promise to reform the public mental health system.
Our report, "Stand and Deliver: Action Call to a Failing Industry," clearly demonstrated that much of the cost-cutting in managed care is being done at the expense of those most in need of quality care, and who are most at risk for disaster. If the industry is allowed to continue along its current path, managed care in the public sector will have tragic results for people with severe mental illness. The President’s Consumer Bill of Rights makes great strides to improve current managed care law, but requires more protections for the millions of Americans suffering from serious brain disorders.
We recommend that any set of national standards also include protections that ensure access to necessary inpatient treatment and assertive community treatment services, newer anti-psychotic medications, consumer and family involvement in decision-making, more effective outcome measurements, and adoption of advanced treatment guidelines for brain disorders such as schizophrenia.
We look forward to continuing our work with the President and the Commission to further these objectives. We believe every American, regardless of their illness, should be guaranteed equal health care protections under the law.
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