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President Obama Addresses Mental Health Care at New Hampshire Town Hall Meeting

August 12, 2009

President Obama shared his vision for health care reform—and stressed his support of mental health parity—at a New Hampshire town hall meeting on Aug. 11.

Linda Becher, an audience member, specifically asked the president about access to mental health care and its impact on society. The president acknowledged the seriousness of mental illnesses and the reality that many existing insurance policies do not cover them on the same terms as physical illnesses. President Obama also expressed his desire to include mental health care as part of health care reform.

Watch President Obama speak about mental health care at 48:43 or read the transcript below.

Q Hello, Mr. President. My name is Linda Becher (ph). I'm from Portsmouth and I have proudly taught at this high school for 37 years…I've been lucky enough to have very good health care coverage and my concerns currently are for those who do not. And I guess my question is if every American who needed it has access to good mental health care, what do you think the impact would be on our society?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you raise the -- (applause) -- you know, mental health has always been undervalued in the health insurance market. And what we now know is, is that somebody who has severe depression has a more debilitating and dangerous illness than somebody who's got a broken leg. But a broken leg, nobody argues that's covered. Severe depression, unfortunately, oftentimes isn't even under existing insurance policies.

So I think -- I've been a strong believer in mental health parity, recognizing that those are serious illnesses. (Applause.) And I would like to see a mental health component as part of a package that people are covered under, under our plan. Okay? (Applause.)

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