June 25, 2007
U.S. Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM), Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and Mike Enzi (R-WY), Senate sponsors of federal parity legislation (S 558), are expected to quickly press for action on a revised version of their bill to provide equivalent health plan coverage for the treatment of mental illness.
Contact both of your U.S. Senators and urge them to
Call or Email your Senators today! A special toll-free Parity Hotline has been set up 1-866-parity4 (1-866-727-4894). The hotline reaches the U.S. Capitol switchboard, which can connect you to your Senators. To reach your Senators via email, go to NAMI's Legislative Action Center.
If your Senator is a cosponsor of S 558, please thank him/her for
A helpful Q&A guide on S 558 can be found here.
The Senate parity bill passed through the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee on a strong bipartisan vote on February 12th. Since then, Senate sponsors have been preparing changes to address concerns about how the bill would interact with existing state parity laws and are expected to offer a "Manager’s Amendment" to the full Senate as a revised version of S 558.
As part of the "Manager’s Amendment," the Senate sponsors have replaced references to "substance abuse" with "substance use disorder" and have made the following key changes to the special preemption rule in S 558:
The revised version of S 558 not only makes it clear that the scope of any preemption is very narrow, but additional changes in language make clearer what is NOT preempted, including:
Other provisions of S 558:
S 558 creates a national standard that would require that treatment limitations and financial requirements be no more restrictive than they are for substantially all medical and surgical benefits. This would set a no-discrimination standard in lieu of state laws or standards setting different duration of treatment and/or financial requirements. While this would remove minimum durational requirements for treatment in some states, it would set a uniformly fair standard that provides for coverage that is equivalent to that provided for other illnesses.
S 558 sets a national standard under which a health plan can become exempt from compliance with parity because of increased costs. Unlike many state laws under which initial cost-experience enables a plan to escape compliance indefinitely, S 558 establishes a mechanism for an exemption for a single year at a time based on actuarially-certified experiential data. A plan is first required to implement the parity law before seeking an exemption and subsequent one-year exemptions are possible only after reinstating compliance with parity requirements. Given the administrative costs of shifting in and out of compliance, experts believe it unlikely that many plans will seek an exemption.
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