Mental Health Parity Legislation Would Not Eliminate All Disparities
The Philadelphia Inquirer today reports that while mental health parity legislation under consideration in Congress would "make health plans equalize the rules for mental and physical health care," it would not "do away with" all coverage disparities. A bill (S 543) proposed by Sens. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) would build on the original 1996 mental health parity law, which prohibited health plans that cover mental illnesses from setting different annual and lifetime benefits for those illnesses than they do for physical illnesses. However, the Inquirer reports that the legislation would only require health plans to provide equal coverage for in-network providers and "doesn't require companies to cover mental health at all." The legislation would not mandate coverage for alcohol and substance abuse treatment, nor would it require parity for the cost of mental health services under Medicare. Paul Appelbaum, president of the American Psychiatric Association, said he would like to see the bill "go further" by requiring health plans to cover substance abuse treatment. But he adds that "sometimes in the political world one has to go step-by-step, and this is unquestionably a step in the right direction" (Burling, Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/24).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.