March 7, 2008
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a mental health insurance parity bill (HR 1424) by a vote of 268 to 148, showing strong support for parity. But difficult negotiations are expected with the Senate, which passed a different bill (S 558) unanimously last year.
Both the Senate and House bills require group health insurance plans to cover mental illness and substance abuse disorders on the same terms and conditions as other illnesses—"i.e., parity" with respect to the number of doctor visits, hospital stays, co-payments and other provisions. However, there are important differences between the bills that must be resolved.
Learn more about the differences between S 558 and HR 1424 that must be resolved in order to achieve a bill that can pass this year. Despite these differences, the House debate demonstrated clear consensus in support of parity in principle.
In New York Times coverage, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, "Illness of the brain must be treated just like illness anywhere else in the body." Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) who is the chief sponsor of the bill spoke about his own experience with mental illness.
Equitable coverage of mental illness treatment has been a top legislative priority for NAMI for nearly 20 years. Send a letter to your member of Congress and tell them not to let an historic opportunity to slip away. Now is the time to reach an agreement that can pass both the House and the Senate and be signed by President Bush— this year.