House of Representatives Passes Historic Mental Health Equity Legislation
Bill Would End Decades of Health Insurance Discrimination
Contact: Jason Halal, (703) 797-1943 or email@example.com
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (March 5, 2008) - In a historic vote today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed, for the first time, comprehensive legislation to outlaw health insurance practices that discriminate against Americans with mental health and substance-use conditions under employer-sponsored health care plans. If enacted, the bill would provide comprehensive parity for 87 million Americans covered by self-insured plans and another 31 million covered by insured plans that are subject to state regulation. Mental Health America applauds Representatives Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) and Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.) for their long-standing commitment to ending this civil rights inequity, and looks forward to working alongside Congress to pass a strong parity law this year.
"There is simply no basis for discriminatory insurance practices that set arbitrary limits and inequitable cost-sharing burdens on Americans who need mental health treatment," said David L. Shern, Ph.D., president and CEO of Mental Health America. "Mental health disorders are every bit as debilitating, and just as treatable, as cancer and diabetes. It's high time that we recognize this by passing strong federal parity legislation."
The Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act (H.R. 1424) would outlaw practices that have for too long have caused needless suffering, reduced workplace productivity, and increased overall health care costs while contributing to higher costs in the public health care system. The legislation establishes a floor for mental health equity but does not in any way override stronger state laws. State parity laws vary widely from state to state (for a map of state laws, visit www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/parity/states).
In 2007, Reps. Kennedy and Ramstad embarked on the Campaign to Insure Mental Health and Addiction Equity, a nationwide tour that Mental Health America helped mount to lay the foundation for their fight for equal access to health care for Americans with mental and addictive disorders. They heard testimony from Americans living with mental illnesses, business leaders who have benefited from workplace mental health programs, experts on mental health and addiction, and administrators of programs that bear the huge cost of untreated mental illness.
According to a 2007 survey by Mental Health America, the vast majority of Americans (89%) - including Democrats, Republicans, managers and employees alike - want to end insurance discrimination against people with mental health needs, "This is the great civil rights struggle of our time," said Shern. "And with such wide bipartisan support, we are confident that it's a struggle we're going to win."
Mental Health America looks forward to working with the House of Representatives and the Senate to enact a strong parity law this year that achieves insurance equity and expands the civil rights of people with mental health and substance abuse needs. For more information, go to http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/.
Mental Health America is the country's leading nonprofit dedicated to helping ALL people live mentally healthier lives. With our more than 320 affiliates nationwide, we represent a growing movement of Americans who promote mental wellness for the health and well-being of the nation - everyday and in times of crisis.