Senate Approves Mental Health Parity Measure With Bailout Bill
Mental health parity legislation was included in the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street firms passed Wednesday by the Senate, the AP/Detroit Free Press reports.
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 if they do itÂ must be equivalent if they do (Freking, AP/Detroit Free Press, 10/1). Health plans violating the requirement could be subject to federal excise taxes (Pear, New York Times, 10/2).
The bailout bill now goes before the House, which earlier this week voted against a previous package that did not include parity legislation (Hulse, New York Times, 10/2).
According to CQ Today, 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, including Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.).
A Ramstad aide said the inclusion of parity language has "caused him to reconsider his position" on the bailout. However, inclusion of the parity bill "has not translated into a visible new groundswell of House support for the larger bill," CQ Today reports.
According to CQ Today, mental health advocates will increase pressure on House members before the vote, which is scheduled for Friday.
"We're going to work very, very hard to make sure that the House supports this," Andrew Sperling, lobbyist for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said.
Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) -- who helped forge a compromise between the House, the Senate, lobbyists and activists on parity legislation this summer -- in a statement said the parity legislation was on "the threshold of final passage."
If the package is defeated in the House, a parity bill still could be passed this session, CQ Today reports (Armstrong, CQ Today, 10/1). However, according to the AP/Free Press, proponents of the legislation are "running out of time" because the bailout bill could be the last major bill of the year before lawmakers return to their home states for the Nov. 4 election (AP/Detroit Free Press, 10/1).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.