Opponents of Mental Health Parity Legislation Address Concerns at Forum
Patients would receive better mental health care in "consumer-driven" health plans that allow more direct control over health care dollars than under federal parity mandates, opponents of a proposed mental health parity bill said yesterday at a National Center for Policy Analysis forum, CongressDaily reports (Rovner, CongressDaily, 9/17). The bill (S 543), proposed by Sens. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.), would eliminate a loophole in 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. It would prevent insurers from establishing higher deductibles or copayments for mental health benefits than for other medical conditions (California Healthline, 6/24). Rep. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said, "To add mandates to the current third-party system is just going to cause it to collapse. So anyone who's arguing for mandates at this point is really arguing for single-payer health care." NCPA President John Goodman said "individuals and families are far more effective in monitoring their own treatment than a third party would be," particularly for mental health care. Still, Henry Harbin of Magellan Health Services, the country's largest mental health managed care company, said the bill could be "clarified to address potential ambiguities," according to CongressDaily. He also said that the cost of adopting mental health parity provisions would be "minimal." In the meantime, Domenici has continued to discuss the legislation with President Bush, who last spring supported the idea of a mental health parity bill but was concerned about its potential to raise costs (CongressDaily, 9/17).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.