Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mental Health Bill

Congress Passes Mental Health Parity
Further Consideration Needed Before Bill Can Be Sent to President

On Tuesday (Sept. 23), both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate passed bills that will require private insurers to cover treatment for mental illness on the same terms and conditions as all other illnesses.

The House passed the language as a stand-alone bill, while the Senate included it in another measure. Because the bills to which parity is attached are different in form, more voting is necessary. Congress is expected to continue its session next week.

"This groundbreaking legislation will remove an important barrier for those who suffer from mental illness and need treatment," AFSP Executive Director Robert Gebbia said. "Untreated psychiatric disorders are the leading cause of suicide, so this bill is crucial to suicide prevention."

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.

AFSP would like to thank Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) and Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) for introducing mental health parity legislation into Congress last year, and the hundreds of parity supporters who contacted their representative and senators, urging them to give highest priority to ending mental health and substance use benefits discrimination.

Together with other national suicide prevention and mental health organizations, and as part of the Mental Health Liaison Group, AFSP has advocated for over a decade for greater health insurance parity for persons with mental illness and for stopping insurance discrimination of those in need of mental health treatment. Accessible and affordable treatment for the illnesses that can lead to suicide will help save lives.

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