May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, a week which aims to shine a light on a major health care crisis in the United States, including the shortage of mental health facilities and services for the 62 million Americans who experience mental illness each year. The scope of the mental health shortage is alarming; according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “1 in 5 Americans will be affected by a mental health condition in their lifetime and every American is affected or impacted through their friends and family.”
The dramatic increase in suicide rates over the last two decades is troubling. According to a recent study from the National Center for Health Statistics, the overall suicide rate rose by 24 percent from 1999 to 2014. This increase includes a 63 percent increase from women ages 45 to 64 and a by 43 percent increase for men in the same age range, the largest increase for males of any age. Overall suicide has become the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, the third leading cause of death for people aged 10–24, and the second leading cause of death for people aged 15–24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In a December issue of Consumer Power Report, Heartland Executive Editor Justin Haskins examines some of the causes of the mental health shortage and argues recent reforms such as the Affordable Care Act do little to address this problem; the free market is where solutions lie.
“While it’s true provisions in ACA and other federal laws may help motivate private health care providers to offer increased mental health services using innovative methods such as telemedicine, giving credit to the federal government for improving health care is akin to calling someone a hero for setting a city on fire and then suppressing the flames in one building,” wrote Haskins. “Any market’s success hinges on competition among businesses and industries. U.S. health care is a heavily regulated, anti-free-market system in which innovation is frequently stifled and health services monopolies are supported and created by government agencies.”
One of these obstacles is state certificate of need (CON) laws. CON laws attempt to reduce health care costs by eliminating unnecessary services and encouraging the consolidation of health care providers. Several studies conducted over the years have shown CON laws have actually caused a number of significant problems.
“Mental Health America ranked all 50 states and Washington, DC for prevalence of mental illness and access to mental health care services,” wrote Haskins in a recent opinion article. “Of the 30 states, including Washington, DC, with the worst rankings, 23 have CON laws or variations on CON legislation. Of the remaining seven states, four are among the lowest in population density, which is also linked to suicide rates for the same reasons CON laws are: lower access to mental health professionals.”
Government regulation of the health care industry has played a role in limiting the expansion of needed mental health services. State and federal legislators need to remove these barriers and allow the market to provide the mental health services the public is clamoring for.
The Heartland Institute recently launched a website gathering up-to-the-minute writings by Heartland research fellows, policy advisors, editors, and reporters that focus on the subject of mental health care and improving health care access.
Heartland covers mental health care from two angles, both with patients at the center. The first promotes innovation in reaching, treating, and improving the quality of care for mentally ill Americans. The second identifies solutions to public policies obstructing innovation and delivery of mental health services. Mentally ill patients and their families ought not and cannot afford to languish in a tug-of-war between innovation and public policy.
What We’re Working On
Emerging Issues Conference Call
On Thursday, May 26, 2016, at 3:00 pm EST, the Heartland Institute will be hosting a conference call to preview our upcoming Emerging Issues Forum in Chicago, Illinois, which will be held August 7–8. We will be speaking with Lindsey Burke from The Heritage Foundation, a panelist for the event about the emerging issues in education policy. To receive the call-in information for the event, please RSVP to Lindsey Stroud at [email protected] or at 312/377-4000.
Research & Commentary: Michigan Should Move Away from Maintenance of Certification
Doctors across the country are beginning to face mounting new costs as many medical boards now require additional and unnecessary testing and programs, known as “maintenance of certification” (MOC), for certified physicians to continue their practices. The Michigan Legislature is now considering a proposal that would enact several reforms designed to halt the detrimental effects of MOC, including banning hospitals from denying admitting privileges based on MOC, not allowing insurers to make MOC a prerequisite for reimbursement, and new regulations prohibiting medical and osteopathic boards from making MOC a condition of licensure. In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans argues physicians should not be required to pass through a quagmire of costly and expensive tests that may be unnecessary. Read more
Budget & Tax
Research & Commentary: Gas and Vehicle Taxes Burden Drivers, Don’t Fix Roads
Consistent declines in gas-tax revenue have left many states scrambling to fund the maintenance of their critical infrastructure, especially roads and bridges. In Minnesota, legislators have considered several major proposals that would increase the state’s fuel tax or increase fees on licensing, registration, and titles. Critics of these proposals argue they would create unnecessary tax increases during a time when the state is enjoying a budget surplus, and they say the taxes will hit the poor the hardest. In this Research & Commentary, Matthew Glans cautions legislators against relying on the gasoline tax for infrastructure funding and recommends they consider other options, such as privatizing roads and establishing toll systems. Read more
Energy & Environment
Research & Commentary: Higher State Support for Green Energy Increases Energy Costs for Consumers
An analysis published by the Daily Caller News Foundation has found a “statistically significant correlation … between high electricity bills and states with numerous policies supporting green energy.” The study, which provided an analysis of data released by the Energy Information Administration and the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency, found “states which offered rebates, buy-back programs, tax exemptions and direct cash subsidies to green energy were 64 percent more likely to have higher than average electric bills. For every additional pro-green energy policy in a state, the average price of electricity rose by about .01 cents per kilowatt-hour.”
In this Research & Commentary, Policy Analyst Timothy Benson says because low-income households spend a larger share of their income on essential services, such as electricity, renewable power mandates essentially act like a regressive tax. He argues the best policy option for state legislators would be to start rolling back costly and destructive renewable mandates and energy subsidies, which would lower electricity prices significantly. Read more
Washington State Governor’s Inaction Allows Charter Schools to Survive
Writing in School Reform News, Mary Tillotson notes how Senate Bill 6194, which funds Washington State charter schools from an account in the state’s budget that uses proceeds from the state lottery, became law after Gov. Jay Inslee (D) took no action on the legislation. Previous charter school legislation had been overturned by the Washington Supreme Court in 2015. In that case, the Court determined funding for charter schools cannot not come from the state’s general fund. The Opportunity Pathways Fund, which will fund the charters, went into effect in April. Read more
Delaware Becomes First State since 2010 to Rescind an Article V Application
In this Somewhat Reasonable article, Heartland Project Manager Kyle Maichle discusses how Delaware recently became the first state since 2010 to rescind an application for an Article V convention. Maichle discusses why the rescission occurred and says it likely won’t slow the growing momentum of the Article V convention movement. “Delaware’s move to approve HCR 60 pales in comparison to the progress made in 2016 by supporters for a convention. West Virginia, on March 12, and Oklahoma, on April 26, became the two newest states to approve applications for an Article V convention for a balanced budget amendment.” Read more
From Our Free-Market Friends
The Future of Money and Giving Every Child the Chance at a Successful Future
This paper from the Goldwater Institute examines how mobile devices are being used to improve person-to-person and person-to-business payments. It also discusses how new technology could make education savings accounts possible for thousands of students. “Access to convenient mobile payment methods can improve the ways parents find quality educational options for their children and lawmakers provide students with the taxpayer money meant for students’ educational success.” Read more