Both Houses of Congress Approve Mental Health Parity Legislation
The House and Senate on Tuesday approved compromise mental health parity legislation, but the chambers have not agreed on a funding mechanism, CongressDaily reports.
The bill would require health insurers to cover mental illnesses at the same level as physical ailments (Edney, CongressDaily, 9/24).
The House voted 376-47 to approve the bill (HR 6983) as a stand-alone measure, while the Senate attached its mental health parity bill to legislation (HR 6049, S 3335) that would delay expiring tax breaks, among other things (Pear, New York Times, 9/24).
The measure has received support from both parties, President Bush, business and insurance companies, health care advocates and the medical community, but it is "unclear whether a joint agreement can be reached in the few days remaining before Congress recesses," the Washington Post reports (Layton, Washington Post, 9/24).
According to CongressDaily, "Both chambers are placing the onus on the other to pass mental health parity their way" (CongressDaily, 9/24).
Lawmakers must decide whether the bill should be a stand-alone measure or part of a larger legislative package (Washington Post, 9/24). In addition, Senate Republicans are expected to oppose a delay of a corporate tax break that the House would use to help offset the cost of the $3.4 billion measure.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) might try to move the House's stand-alone measure by unanimous consent in the Senate, a spokesperson said, but Republican senators likely will oppose the request (CongressDaily, 9/24).
The Bush administration has expressed support for the Senate tax extender package, according to CQ Today (Armstrong/Wayne, CQ Today, 9/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.