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Health care too costly

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As a parent of a mentally ill child, I am dismayed and disappointed by the apparent lack of mental-health care for children available to middle-class, working families.

Recently, my wife and I have been spending an exorbitant amount of time trying to find services for our child who is on the verge of needing some very serious treatment for his condition. Over the past few years, we have had him placed in the behavior disabled, learning disabled unit available through the public school system. This, along with having regular therapy from private practitioners, has been very beneficial, not only to him but to our immediate family.

As his condition has worsened, we have been looking into the next level of services and treatment that is beyond his current aforementioned treatment. In examining the next level of treatment, either through a day treatment plan or a full-time residential treatment plan, we were amazed by how "unavailable" most of these plans were due to the lack of health insurance coverage or the high cost of such treatments. It has also been very difficult trying to even find the resources available to meet our needs. When we did find the resources, we discovered that these treatments are exclusively for either the destitute, who can qualify for financial aid, or the affluent who can afford the high cost of the mental-health treatment.

We find the whole system to be very discriminatory toward the average middle-class working family who is able to pay for an average health-care insurance premium but unable to pay for the out-of-pocket expenses required by many of these treatment programs not covered by insurance.

Most, if not all, health insurance plans exclude coverage for these expensive treatments. They also provide very little coverage for regular mental health care given by psychiatrists and psychologists.

It's about time that we as a society, not to mention the health insurance companies, begin to recognize the importance of addressing mental illness issues. There is an increase in the number of mentally ill children throughout this country. Unless we start recognizing that mental illness is a real disease, on par with other typical medical conditions, we may face dire consequences as a result of neglecting this fact. Early intervention is the key and treatment must be made available for those who desperately need it.

Shayne Tueller

West Point