House Committee Approves Mental Health Parity Legislation

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The House Energy and Commerce Committee with a 32-13 vote on Tuesday became the third House committee to approve a measure (HR 1424), sponsored by Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), that would require most health insurers to provide equal levels of coverage for physical and mental illnesses, CQ Today reports. The bill was passed after nine Republican amendments were withdrawn or defeated (Armstrong, CQ Today, 10/16).

The House legislation is similar to a companion bill (S 558) passed in September by the Senate. However, the House bill includes more conditions that insurers would be required to cover. Kennedy said the coverage mandates that differ between the House and Senate bills would be reconciled (Edney, CongressDaily, 10/17). In addition to differences in coverage requirements, the Senate bill would take effect one year after the legislation becomes law, while the House bill would take effect Jan. 1, 2008 (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 9/27).

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The House Budget Committee now will work to find an offset for the bill's $3 billion cost, Kennedy said (CongressDaily, 10/17). The legislation should be ready for the House floor as early as the end of the month, according to the Providence Journal (Mulligan, Providence Journal, 10/17).

President Bush and the insurance industry have said they support the Senate version of the legislation, but Bush has not committed to signing either bill, according to the Washington Times (Lopes, Washington Times, 10/17).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives. The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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