Stark Proposes Mental Health Parity in Medicare
House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chair Pete Stark (D-Calif.) last week introduced legislation (HR 1663) that would require parity in mental health services for Medicare beneficiaries, CongressDaily reports. The bill would reduce the copayment for outpatient mental health benefits from 50% to 20%, which is the rate charged for most physical health services. It also would eliminate a 190-day limit on inpatient mental health treatment (Johnson, CongressDaily, 3/27).
In addition, Stark in a release said the bill would provide more Medicare coverage for mental health services that are cost-effective and community-based. Stark noted that one in five seniors experience mental health problems unrelated to aging and more than one-third of seniors show signs of depression in primary care settings (CQ HealthBeat, 3/26).
The bill is expected to move separately from legislation introduced earlier this month by Reps. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) and Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.) that would require private insurers to offer mental health parity (CongressDaily, 3/27).
Stark said, "As Congress debates requiring private group health plans to offer equal coverage for mental and physical illnesses, it should at the very least make sure public programs provide that same parity" (CQ HealthBeat, 3/26).