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Issue_Spotlights

Victory on Parity!

October 3, 2008

By a vote of 263-171, the House this afternoon gave final approval to the Paul Wellstone-Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 as part of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (HR 1424).  President Bush is expected to sign the legislation late today or early tomorrow.

A Triumph for Consumers and Families

This victory in the House ends a nearly 20 year effort to require group health plans to cover treatment for mental illness on the same terms and conditions as all other illnesses.  NAMI is extremely grateful for the tireless work of advocates from all over the nation that contacted their Senators and House members to push for this landmark legislation.  The advocacy voice of people living with mental illness and their families made a tremendous difference in securing this long sought victory.

NAMI also salutes the leadership of the sponsors of parity in Congress including Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM), Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and Representatives Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and Jim Ramstad (R-MN).  Today NAMI also remembers the contributions of the late Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN) in bringing parity forward.  After nearly 20 years, their efforts have resulted in mental illness treatment no longer being subject to 2nd class status in our health care system.

What Happens Next?

President Bush signed HR 1424 very quickly in order to restore confidence in sagging credit markets.  The parity law becomes effective 1-year after enactment of the bill.  This will mean that group health plans will no longer be able to impose limits on inpatient days or outpatient visits or require higher deductibles or cost sharing for mental illness or addiction treatment that are not also applied to all other medical-surgical coverage.

President Bush signs Parity Bill

President George W. Bush, joined by Republican Senator Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico, Democratic Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., and U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad, R-Minn., participates Thursday, Nov. 20. 2008, in a ceremonial signing of H.R. 1424, The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 at the White House. White House photo by Eric Draper

There is a special effective date rule for collective bargaining agreements that would delay imposition of the parity requirements until the next collective bargaining contract goes into effect.  The law requires that the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Treasury issue regulations within 1 year, although failure to issue such regulations will not delay the effective date of parity.

In the coming weeks, NAMI will be developing educational materials and guidelines on how parity will impact insurance coverage for consumers and families.  For now, NAMI advocates can celebrate a landmark achievement!  


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