Mental health parity caught up in economic rescue plan

Here is a news release from the American Mental Health Counselors Association regarding the intertwining of mental health parity and the economic rescue debate…

E-News from Washington
Vol. 08-39
October 1, 2008
Parity Legislation Now Part of Bailout Package
Congress remains focused on passage of a major package of measure to relieve the crisis in the financial industry. The House failed in its attempt to pass a bailout package on Tuesday, September 30. This evening, October 1, the Senate will attempt to pass a slightly modified relief package, which also includes mental health and addictive disorder parity legislation and an array of tax policy provisions. The mental health parity language included in the Senate’s bailout package is the same language as was approved by both the House and the Senate last week as part of a larger package of tax policy renewals and extensions. The tax package, including the parity provisions, has been stalled due to disagreements between Democrats in the House and Republicans in the Senate regarding the extent to which tax credits and breaks should be paid for.
Although the Senate is expected to approve the new, expanded bailout package, including the mental health parity and tax extenders provisions, it is unclear how the legislation will be received by House members. AMHCA and ACA will attempt to keep members apprised of developments as they occur. In the meantime, counselors are encouraged to continue contacting their Representatives and Senators to urge the enactment of parity legislation before Congress adjourns for the year.

I have blogged about parity before and am generally in favor of this kind of legislation. I understand that requiring insurers to cover certain conditions may seem like an undue interference in the market. However, I think most opposition comes from a misunderstanding that severe mental and emotional conditions have much of their genesis in the brain as the organ of consciousness.

Mental health parity bills pass House, Senate

This just in from the American Mental Health Counselors Association:

E-News from Washington
Vol. 08-36
September 24, 2008
House, Senate Approve Landmark Parity Bills
In historic votes held Tuesday, September 23, both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate passed separate bills requiring private sector health plans to end discriminatory coverage of mental health and addictive disorder services. The votes bring AMHCA, ACA and other mental health advocacy organizations significantly closer to the long-standing goal of enacting strong federal parity protections.
Both votes occurred Tuesday afternoon. A free-standing parity bill, H.R. 6983, the “Paul Wellstone-Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act,” was voted on in the House of Representatives. The bill included the parity protections agreed to earlier this year by House and Senate negotiators, as well as provisions to offset the legislation’s relatively small costs. The House vote was 376-47, a very strong show of support for the legislation.
In the Senate, identical parity protections were included as part of a broad package of wide-ranging tax-related provisions, including extensions of expiring and expired tax credit and incentive programs, a short-term adjustment to the alternative minimum tax, and provisions for helping victims of recent natural disasters. The Senate vote on the package was 93-2.
It is unclear what the next step for the parity legislation will be, although further votes are expected in the coming days. House and Senate members have not yet reached agreement on how to pay for the tax-related provisions approved by the Senate, which is why the House considered the parity legislation separately.
AMHCA and ACA thank their members who contacted Congress in support of parity. We encourage counselors to stay tuned for further developments, and to be prepared for more grassroots work as needed. We’re almost there!
For more information, contact either Beth Powell with AMHCA (at 800-326-2642, ext. 105, e-mail: [email protected]) or Scott Barstow with ACA (at 800-347-6647 x234, e-mail: [email protected]).
Beth Powell
Director, Public Policy and Professional Issues
American Mental Health Counselors Association
The only organization working exclusively for mental health counselors
801 N. Fairfax Street, Suite 304
Alexandria, VA 22314

I am glad to see this but the devil will be in the details of how to pay for it when we are in such a financial crisis.