Historic Mental Health Parity Bill Passed By Congress
A mental health parity bill was passed yesterday after more than ten years of of struggle towards getting it approved. This bill marks an end to insurance companies and employers discriminating against mental health, alcohol, and substance abuse disorders by setting higher co-pays and limiting the number of yearly visits to psychotherapists. This is exciting and hopeful news as this bill will help to destigmatize mental illness and help make care more accessible to those who need it.
A long fight over putting the coverage of mental health on par with other health conditions is nearly over.
Both houses of Congress yesterday passed bills that would prohibit employers who offer mental health coverage from doing things like charging higher co-pays for mental health services than for other kinds of health care. That’s long been a common practice.
“You go in there with a broken arm, you have a $200 deductible and your insurance kicks in,” Rep. Patrick Kennedy told the Washington Post. “You have depression, schizophrenia, substance abuse, and you find out you have a $2,000 deductible, you’ve got limitations on your treatment and all kinds of co-pay.”
Kennedy, who has battled substance abuse, is a Rhode Island Dem. and a sponsor of the bill. His dad, Sen. Ted Kennedy, now battling brain cancer, has been a champion of the legislation in the Senate.
The legislation exempts businesses with fewer than 50 employees. That’s one of several compromises that won the bill broad support from the business community and the Bush administration.
The House passed the language as a stand-alone bill (online here), while the Senate included it in another measure. So they’ll have to come to a joint agreement about what form the measure will take to be sent off to the White House for the president’s signature.