Mental Health Parity Bill Included In Tax Legislation
Lawmakers will try to move mental health parity legislation by attaching it to a tax bill that will be addressed by the Senate this week, CongressDaily reports (Edney, CongressDaily, 9/17). Lawmakers reached an agreement in July that would combine the House and Senate mental health parity bills by removing a House mandate on coverage of specific mental health conditions in favor of one that would require that mental health benefits be equal to physical health benefits. No funding mechanism was included in the agreement (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 9/10).
The parity bill currently is being considered by the Senate Finance Committee, which has been charged with finding funding offsets. The House passed a similar bill this summer that would offset the cost by placing restrictions on physician-owned hospitals.
According to a Republican Senate staffer, funding possibilities discussed last week include a one-year extension of a federal unemployment insurance tax paid by employers, which would generate $1.5 billion; a one-year delay in implementing new rules governing the way companies allocate interest in calculating foreign tax deductions, which would raise $3 billion; and codification of the "so-called Economic Substance Doctrine" that could decrease business' ability to get tax exemptions and generate between $4 billion and $15 billion, CongressDaily reports (CongressDaily, 9/17).
The tax bill (S 3001), which would extend dozens of expired provisions, expand incentives for alternative energy and eliminate the alternative minimum tax for millions of U.S. residents, could reach the Senate floor as early as Wednesday night, according to CQ HealthBeat. Passage is "not a sure thing," although with the "blessing of both parties' leaders" and committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and ranking member Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), "action could be swift," CQ HealthBeat reports (Rubin, CQ HealthBeat, 9/16).
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