Congress Should Pass Mental Health Parity Legislation, Washington Post Says
Although "time is getting short" and the congressional calendar is "crowded," Congress "still should approve" a mental health parity bill, which President Bush should sign, a Washington Post editorial says (Washington Post, 9/9). Bills the House and Senate currently are considering would build on the 1996 mental health parity law, which prohibits health plans that cover mental illnesses from setting different annual and lifetime benefits for those illnesses than they do for physical illnesses. The bills seek to eliminate a loophole in the 1996 law under which insurers are not prevented from establishing higher deductibles or copayments for mental health benefits than for other medical conditions (California Healthline, 7/24). The Post editorial notes that "parity legislation is not a panacea," will not "help the uninsured" and could cause some employers to "weaken or abandon existing coverage or charge employees for more benefits." Nevertheless, the editorial expresses support for parity legislation, noting that "two factors now seem ... to outweigh those concerns." The first is that the experience of the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program and states that have enacted parity legislation shows that insurers can "move toward equal treatment" for physical and mental conditions, while still being able to "exercise the management tools that have been used in the past to decide what treatments are appropriate and warranted," the Post says. The second factor, "one of fundamental fairness," is that parity legislation would remove the stigma surrounding mental illness, the editorial says. The Post adds, "The right response to the growing health care crisis is to fix the system, not make the mentally ill bear a disproportionate burden," concluding that mental health parity legislation, while not a "huge step," would "help some people get the treatment they need" (Washington Post, 9/9).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.