House Subcommittee Passes Mental Health Parity Bill

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Mental Health Parity

One day after the Senate approved a bill (S 558) that would require health insurers to provide equal coverage for physical and mental illnesses, the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health approved the House version (HR 1424) of mental health parity legislation, the Minneapolis Star Tribunereports. The Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act --named for the late senator who championed the issue -- now will be sentto the full committee for a vote (Minneapolis Star Tribune, 9/19).

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TheHouse legislation includes provisions not included in the Senate bill,including a broader definition of conditions that insurers would berequired to cover. In addition, under the House version, the policywould go into effect Jan. 1, 2008, while the Senate bill states that itwould begin one year after it becomes law.

Although the Houselegislation is expected to pass easily, the final version to emergefrom conference more likely will resemble the Senate version, accordingto CQ Today (Armstrong, CQ Today, 9/19).Health subcommittee ranking member Dave Camp (R-Mich.) predicted thatthe Senate version of the bill could land on President Bush's desk "bythe end of the week" (Posner, CongressDaily, 9/20).

Editorial

It is "simply common sense" that if a health insurer covers physicalailments such as cancer and broken bones, "it should give equal weightto someone with an illness that happens to affect the brain," a Hartford Couranteditorial states. The editorial concludes, "The House must pass thisbill. The president must sign it into law. It is the right thing to do.Anything less would be indefensible" (Hartford Courant, 9/20).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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