Senators Move Forward With Mental Health Parity Effort
A bipartisan group of senators on Monday announced that the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Wednesday will mark up a draft bill on mental health parity, CQ HealthBeat reports.
Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) introduced the bill, which would require insurance companies to cover mental illnesses at the same level as they do physical illnesses. Unlike previous mental health parity legislation, the bill also would include substance abuse as a mental health condition eligible for coverage.
Businesses with fewer than 50 employees would be exempt from the bill's mandates (Spieler, CQ HealthBeat, 2/12). Group health plans and employers also would be exempt from the requirements if the cost of mental health coverage exceeded 2% of the total plan cost in the first year or 1% in each subsequent year.
The bill would not pre-empt state laws that mandate mental health parity, but it would overrule state mandates on financial requirements and treatment limitations for mental health services (Johnson, CongressDaily, 2/12).
According to CQ Today, "Mental health parity legislation has languished for a decade," and no measure has ever made it through the legislative process. Domenici said the political environment has since changed (Spieler, CQ Today, 2/12).
Endorsements from America's Health Insurance Plans, the National Retail Federation, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and potentially the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, "as well as the change to a Democratic-controlled Congress, brighten prospects" for the bill, the Wall Street Journal reports (Zhang, Wall Street Journal, 2/13).