Insurance companies have no business prescribing meds

There has been a lot of discussion here and nationwide regarding the need to have better services for people with mental illnesses. At least 250,000 people in Illinois live with serious types of mental illness, while another 2 million live with other forms.

Under many step therapy programs in Illinois, a person with a mental illness must try one or more prescriptions chosen by their insurer before coverage is granted for the drug prescribed by that person’s doctor. This policy is based on financial, not medical, reasons. Insurance companies are cutting down on costs, but limiting patients’ ability to get effective medications.

As a lawyer for individuals in state mental hospitals and the community for 35 years, I’ve realized it is difficult for doctors to find appropriate medications for mental health patients. Once they do, it is important to not interrupt the regimen.

The Mental Health Summit, which I facilitate, enthusiastically supports Illinois House Bill 3549. If passed, this bill will ensure step therapy programs are based on clinical guidelines developed by independent experts, guarantee the step therapy exceptions process is transparent and accessible to patients and health care providers, and establish a framework for when it is medically appropriate to exempt patients from step therapy.

We must not waste our health care dollars. But studies have consistently shown that reducing access to psychotropic medications ends up costing more than it saves because it results in more expensive treatment down the road.

HB 3549 ensures that patients across Illinois receive the medications their doctors truly believe they need.

Mark Heyrman

Clinical Professor of Law

University of Chicago

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Teachers treated like second-class citizens

Once again, the argument posed by the Chicago Public Schools is framed as good against evil. Those selfish teachers actually want to have a living wage and thus deprive children of a well-funded education. So after years of working in underfunded and overcrowded schools, under conditions Mayor Emanuel or Gov. Rauner would not tolerate for five minutes, teachers are told they have to take a pay cut. Why?

Priorities go to other matters such as protecting TIF funds and paying off torture victims of a former police commander. What a wonderful city to grow up in! The people who dedicate their lives to them are treated like second-class citizens; poor children are not a priority for the mayor or the governor.

Ed Juilliard, Morgan Park

Constitution doesn’t guarantee good judgment

Regarding Neil Steinberg’s column about Pamela Geller:

Some years ago a neo-Nazi organization received a permit to march through Skokie, a Chicago suburb chosen because its population included a relatively high number of Holocaust survivors. The march was stalled in various courts for more than a year before receiving judicial approval. In the end, the march never materialized because of community and national outrage, although the First Amendment rights of assembly and free speech were vindicated. Pamela Geller has the same rights. Too bad good judgment is not guaranteed by our Constitution as well.

Paul Bloustein, Cincinnati

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