[JURIST] Congress passed legislation [H.R. 6983 text, PDF] Tuesday to reduce inequities in the insurance coverage of mental health and addiction treatment, bringing the insurance costs for such treatment in line with those of conventional medical procedures. The bill, known as the "Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008," and often referred to as mental health parity legislation, passed in the Senate as part of a tax amendment bill by a vote of 93-2 [H.R. 6049 roll call vote] and in the House of Representatives by a vote of 376-47 [roll call vote]. The bill now heads to a joint committee for arrangement in a final form to be presented to President George W. Bush for signature. The legislation amends the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) [text] to provide that insurance and group health care plans that provide both medical and surgical benefits as well as mental health or substance abuse benefits ensure that:
the financial requirements applicable to such mental health or substance use disorder benefits are no more restrictive than the predominant financial requirements applied to substantially all medical and surgical benefits covered by the plan (or coverage), and there are no separate cost sharing requirements that are applicable only with respect to mental health or substance use disorder benefits; and ... the treatment limitations applicable to such mental health or substance use disorder benefits are no more restrictive than the predominant treatment limitations applied to substantially all medical and surgical benefits covered by the plan (or coverage) and there are no separate treatment limitations that are applicable only with respect to mental health or substance use disorder benefits.Reuters has more. The Washington Post has additional coverage.
Passage of the mental health parity act, named in part after the late Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone, drew praise from both advocacy and industry groups, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness [advocacy website; press release], the American Public Health Association [advocacy website; press release] and America's Health Insurance Plans [advocacy website; press release], an insurance industry trade group. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) [advocacy website] also commented [press release, DOC] on the passage of the bill, expressing concern over final approval of the legislation and payment for the costs of the act.