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United States Congress moves closer to passing mental health parity

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D. was Director of Mental Help Net from 1999 to 2011. Dr. Dombeck received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in 1995 ...Read More

This just in from the National Counsil for Community Behavioral Healthcare (NCCBH) , a professional group representing community mental health within the United States.  Movement has occurred within the congress towards the ultimate passage of a federal mental health and addictions parity bill which would force health insurers in the United States to cover and pay for mental illness and addictions in the same manner they cover other chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.  At present the situation is pretty much that the average insurer offers only token mental health coverage in comparison with how illnesses like heart disease are reimbursed.  They do this because as for-profit companies, it is expedient and cheaper for them to do so.  No one is forcing them not to.  

Of course, this legislation is not yet law.  However, the effort to make parity part of law has just passed another road block.

The text of the press release follows: 

House, Senate Pass Historic Mental Health and Addictions Parity Legislation

On September 23, both the House and Senate passed legislation to extend parity to both mental health and addictions. The National Council thanks all members who called their members of Congress in support of this historic legislation!

The Senate passed the parity compromise reached by House and Senate negotiators as part of a package (HR 6049) that would extend expiring tax breaks. After voting 83 to 12 to waive a Budget Act point of order and pass an amendment offered by Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to combine the parity compromise with the tax extenders bill, the Senate passed the combined legislation by a vote of 93 to 2. To see how your Senators voted, click here.

The House passed the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 HR 6983) by a vote of 376 to 47. To see how your Representative voted, click here.

"This bipartisan bill is an important and necessary measure to ensure that the roughly 54 million Americans who suffer from mental illness are not subjected to higher costs or treatment limitations,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) in a statement yesterday. “I commend Congressmen Kennedy and Ramstad for their tireless commitment to this legislation. Our action today is also in tribute to the legacy of Senator Paul Wellstone and the work of all those who have advocated on behalf of mental health parity.

Last week, the National Council, in coalition with the Ad Hoc Coalition on Mental Health Parity, the Coalition for Fairness in Mental Illness Coverage, Mental Health Liaison Group, and Parity Now Coalition, ran ads in support of parity in CongressDaily AM. To see a copy of the ad, click here

Because the House and Senate bills to passed the parity compromise in different forms, additional voting will be necessary. Look for updates on this important legislation in future editions of the National Council’s Public Policy Update.

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