Congress Moves Parity Forward!
September 24, 2008
Yesterday both the House and Senate advanced a final agreement on legislation to require group health plans to cover treatment for mental illness at parity with all other medical conditions. By a vote of 84-11, the Senate approved the parity bill (known as the Paul Wellstone-Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008) as an amendment to a much larger package extending expiring tax breaks (the entire tax package, with parity included, later passed 93-2). An hour later, the House passed the parity bill (HR 6983) by a vote of 376-47, as separate free-standing legislation.
What Happens Next?
In order for the parity bill to go to the President, the House and Senate have to pass it in the same format. With Congress expected to adjourn by the end of this week or early next week, time is running short. House and Senate leaders must now resolve how to move parity forward – whether as an amendment to the "must pass" tax extenders legislation (HR 6049) as the Senate prefers, or as a free-standing bill as the House prefers. In either case, there is strong political momentum behind the parity bill and the legislation remains a high priority for both House and Senate leaders. Likewise, President Bush went on record in favor of the parity bill today as part of the Senate tax extenders package.
Help us keep the pressure on Congress to demand final action on mental illness parity legislation before adjourning. Call your members of Congress at 202-224-3121 (Senate) and 202-225-3121 (House) and demand:
- NO ADJOURNMENT without completing action on mental illness parity (HR 6983) and sending it to the President,
- PARITY NOT BE HELD HOSTAGE as part of negotiations over unrelated legislation – children and adults with mental illness and their families have been waiting nearly two decades for Congress to act on legislation to ensure that mental illnesses are equitably covered in health insurance.
Remind all members of Congress that:
- Mental illnesses are real,
- Treatment works – if you can get it,
- There is no justification for a health plan to impose limitations or conditions on mental illness treatment that do not apply to all other medical conditions, and
- There is broad agreement on a compromise version of the mental illness insurance parity bill (HR 6983), now Congress just needs to finish the job and pass the bill so it can be signed in to law this year.
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Click here to read more about the current status of mental illness insurance parity legislation in the House and Senate.