Magazine article The Alcoholism Report

House Appropriations Committee Criticizes CHAMPUS Cuts

Magazine article The Alcoholism Report

House Appropriations Committee Criticizes CHAMPUS Cuts

Article excerpt

House Appropriations Committee Criticizes CHAMPUS Cuts

The House Appropriations Committee, in a report, voiced concern over the reductions in mental health benefits under CHAMPUS proposed in the House-passed Defense Authorization bill (HR-4739), and called for continuation of the current system of cost control and utilization review.

The Defense Authorization bill, under a provision authored by Rep. Beverly Byron (D-MD), would reduce the annual limit on inpatient stays from 60 days to 30 days and place a 90-day annual limit on residential treatment, affecting alcohol and drug abuse treatment which are capped by the mental health maximums (AR, September, August). The bill is a product of the House Armed Services Committee for which Byron is chair of the Sub-committee on Military Personnel and Compensation.

The House appropriations panel's report said, "The Committee is very concerned with the proposed recent changes that have been suggested to reduce the CHAMPUS mental health benefit. This benefit was always meant to be generous because of the extreme circumstances many of our service members have to live and work with including long separations from family members and frequent moves. No changes should be made to this benefit unless part of the proposal includes partial hospitalization."

Meanwhile, the Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) joined a chorus of protests against the CHAMPUS cutbacks. IMH Director Lewis L. Judd, MD, in a letter to Rep. Albert Bustamante (D-TX), expressed his opposition "to the efforts to change CHAMPUS coverage in such a drastic manner."

"I have spoken recently about the need to end the unfair and scientifically unfounded limits on treatment for mental illness as compared to other illnesses," Judd wrote. "I support parity between treatment for mental illnesses and treatment for other illnesses."

NIMH-supported research on financing of mental health care suggests that "arbitrary benefit limits may not be the best approach to either psychiatric treatment or to controlling costs," Judd said. "It is of further interest to note that Medicare coverage for mental illness has, in fact, been expanded in recent years so that the limits on outpatient mental health care have been eliminated. This recognizes that mental illnesses are much like all other illnesses with a combined need for acute care, sometimes hospitalization, and often continual contact for chronic conditions. …

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