Religious Right’s Ever-Expanding Platform

It’s no surprise to see the American Counseling Association and the National Retail Federation coming up on opposite sides of the debate over a bill on mental health care coverage. But it is a little strange to see the Family Research Center telling its supporters to call their representatives in opposition to the bill, which they call “a big goal for liberals in health care.”

The bill would place a massive new government mandate on private businesses to provide healthcare coverage for mental illness. Of even more concern, though, is the fact that rather than limit the coverage mandate to severe and debilitating illness, the bill uses the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) as the basis for identifying conditions that must be covered. Among the more troubling diagnoses incorporated into DSM-IV are:

    * Circadian rhythm sleep disorder (jet lag type);

    * Caffeine intoxication;

    * Sibling relational problem;

    * Substance-induced sexual dysfunction;

    * Gender identity disorder;

    * Necrophilia;

    * Transvestic fetishism; and

    * Pedophilia.

Under H.R. 1424, employers offering group coverage would be required to provide benefits related to these and similar diagnoses included in DSM-IV. In addition, the bill provides no conscience clause for employers who have religious or moral objections to covering the psycho-sexual disorders, including those noted above.

Normally, one hears the far-right speak of DSM-IV only in the context of whether the reference lists homosexuality as a disorder, but here, FRC is complaining that DSM’s list is too inclusive of “psycho-sexual disorders.” FRC adds that “this overbroad and national mandate will actually divert resources to controversial conditions and therapies, and even drive many businesses to drop their coverage altogether.”

Indeed, FRC’s position contradicts that of even Warren Throckmorton, one of the Religious Right’s top psychologists and a prominent advocate of “ex-gay” therapy. On the other hand, FRC’s points seem to precisely echo the talking points of a new ad hoc business coalition, as reported by CongressDaily this morning:

A business coalition lobbying against a mental health parity bill that will be on the House floor Wednesday has targeted 10 Republicans for “special attention” from its grassroots network.

The ad hoc coalition has listed a vote for the House version as a “key vote” against business in this Congress. The National Retail Federation, which heads the coalition, is lobbying in favor of a Senate mental health parity bill that it helped negotiate. …

Republicans are preparing to argue on the floor that the House bill would impose overly strict mental health coverage requirements on insurers, giving them incentives to drop mental care coverage entirely.

Because the House bill mandates that insurers cover all conditions listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV), opponents also are likely to highlight some of the more esoteric disorders in the manual, such as caffeine intoxication and jet lag.