Mental Health Advocates Urge House To Pass Bailout Bill
Advocates for mental health parity legislation on Thursday launched efforts to lobby 51 co-sponsors of a House mental health parity bill (HR 1424) who voted against a House version of a financial bailout package to reconsider their votes and vote to approve a Senate-approved package that includes mental health parity language, CQ Today reports (Armstrong/Wayne, CQ Today, 10/2).
On Wednesday, the Senate passed the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street firms that included mental health parity legislation. The legislation would require group health plans of 51 or more employees to cover mental illnesses at the same level as physical ailments. It does not require the plans to offer such coverage but must be equivalent if they do.
The mental health provisions were added to the larger package as a means of enticing House members who voted against the previous bailout measure but support parity legislation (California Healthline, 10/2).
The Mental Health Liaison Group, which represents mental health parity advocacy groups, urged more than 200 affiliated organizations and their members to call the 51 House membersÂ (Armstrong/Wayne, CQ Today, 10/2).
According to the AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press, the mental health parity measure "has broad support in Congress, but time is running out for this year" because the "only vehicle left is the economic rescue package coming before the House as early as" Friday (Freking, AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press, 10/2).
According to CQ Today, there is no alternative strategy for passage of mental health parity legislation during this session mainly because of the limited time available toÂ vote onÂ another bill (Armstrong/Wayne, CQ Today, 10/2).
Laurel Stine, director of federal relations at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, said, "This is as close as we've gotten over the past decade," adding, "This is it."
According to CQ Today, the inclusion of the parity measure likely will not encourage many House members to switch their votes to support the larger financial bailout proposal. However, at least one former opponent of the original bailout plan -- Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.) -- said he will vote for the Senate package, CQ Today reports.In a statement, Ramstad said, "The revised bill is a recovery bill for the economy and a recovery bill for millions of Americans suffering the ravages of mental illness and addiction" (Wayne, CQ Today, 10/2). Ramstad said that he will try to encourage other GOP House members to support the Senate package but noted that the inclusion of the parity provision is unlikely to be a key factor in their considerations (Armstrong/Wayne, CQ Today, 10/2). 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.