April 22, 2007

Progress on Mental Illness Insurance Parity Bill - But Roadblocks Encountered

In February NAMI suggested that the Mental Health Parity Act of 2007 (available for download here) is an the unprecedented bipartisan agreement achieved by Senators Pete Domenici, Ted Kennedy and Mike Enzi.

It expands on the federal parity law passed in 1996 by prohibiting limits on inpatient days and outpatient visits that apply only to mental illnesses and not other illnesses.

It prohibits higher co-payments, deductibles and other financial restrictions that apply only to mental illnesses and not other illnesses.

Finally and most importantly, the legislation applies these new standards to self-insured plans that are currently exempt from 41 state mental health parity laws. Those plans cover an estimated 82 million Americans.

Agreement exists for the bill to start moving forward quickly in the Senate, with the cooperation and support of employers and insurers. There is mutual desire to provide effective treatment for serious mental illnesses on equal terms within healthcare plans. There is clear recognition that untreated mental illness only burdens us all as a nation.

This historic breakthrough would not have been possible without the leadership of Senators Domenici, Kennedy and Enzi. We deeply appreciate their commitment, applaud their achievement, and look forward to continuing to work with them to enact the bill into law.

Recently, however, the bill has hit a roadblock. Psychiatric Times reports that "the bill is silent on a key issue: which psychiatric conditions a company must cover if it offers mental health care. Tom Leibfried, deputy director, congressional affairs for the American Psychiatric Association, said the bill leaves it to the states to define what is protected in terms of covered diagnoses. States that cover all of DSM-IV diagnoses would be allowed to do that. States that allow a less complete range would be allowed to do that.

Dodd has not said publicly exactly what his amendment would do, except for some general comments about a more limited preemption provision. One lobbyist for a mental health group, who did not want to be quoted, could not explain where Dodd was headed. But Dodd has apparently agreed to only offer an amendment that has gotten prior approval from the business and mental health groups that agreed to S. 558. It is possible that the Connecticut Democrat may want to be more exact with language relating to covered illnesses, especially for states that specify expansive coverage. His press office did not return a call asking for clarification."

Read the Full Story: Mental Health Parity Bill Clears Committee

Source: NAMI, Psychiatric Times

NAMI Info Source: Support the Mental Health Parity Act of 2007 (S 558)

NAMI Suggests that Advocates are strongly encouraged to contact their Senators and urge them to support and cosponsor S 558. It is critically important that strong and immediate bipartisan support be demonstrated for this legislation.

When contacting Senate offices, it is critically important to remind them that:

* Mental illnesses are real
* Treatment works
* There is no justification for a health plan to impose limits or conditions on coverage that do not apply to all other illnesses, and
* After nearly 15 years of delay, it is time for the Senate finally pass parity legislation.

Additional Resources:

Mental Health Parity Act of 2007 - There are 2 versions of Bill Number S.558 for the 110th Congress

WashingtonWatch.com - S. 558, The Mental Health Parity Act of 2007


Post a comment

Please enter this code to enable your comment -
Remember Me?
(you may use HTML tags for style)
* indicates required