After more than 10 years in the making, the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act is now the law of the land. This landmark legislation requires health insurance plans that offer mental health coverage to provide the same financial and treatment coverage offered for other physical illnesses.
The idea began in 1996 when the two senators from different sides of the aisle experienced what insurance discrimination of mental illnesses did to their own families. They saw it wasn’t right and championed the movement to make it right. Because of their efforts, millions of American families will be better off.
“We are ushering in a new era of health care for those with mental illnesses. No longer will we allow mental health to be treated as a stepchild in the health care system. If you have insurance, then your mental health care must be equal to the benefits you get for any other disease,” Sen. Domenici said. “I appreciate all the partners I’ve had in this long, long effort but most especially Senator Ted Kennedy, who has been remarkable and stepped up to this work after Paul Wellstone’s tragic death. This has been a labor of love for us.”
Because of the dogged efforts of Senators Domenici and Wellstone, a scaled-down version of parity was enacted in 1996, against fierce opposition from insurance industry lobbyists. Each year, it seemed, the full version would come close to passing but never fully making its way to the president’s desk. This year, as part of the Wall Street rescue measure, it became a must sign piece of legislation. While it took more than 10 years for the full measure, the federal government and many states moved toward mental health parity sooner. The Clinton administration revised Medicaid rules to extend parity for that program. That was a major benefit for many families where someone had a severe mental illness.
Now, as a law, it is also a fitting tribute to cap the career of Sen. Domenici who is retiring at the end of this year. The battle could not have been won without his leadership.
Announcement by Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
October 8, 2008
Dear Ms. Neal :
Thank you for contacting me regarding mental health parity legislation. It is good to hear from you.
The Senate passed S. 558, the "Mental Health Parity Act of 2007," on September 18, 2007 by Unanimous Consent. This legislation does not require health insurance plans to offer mental health coverage. However, should they decide to offer such coverage, this bill states that it must be similar to the coverage offered for physical illnesses.
In addition, this legislation applies only to employers with 50 or more employees. On September 19, 2007, S. 558 was received in the House of Representatives, where it was referred to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions.
Moreover, H.R. 1424, the "Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007," passed the House of Representatives on March 5, 2008, and was placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders. This legislation would require health insurers to offer mental health benefits equal to the coverage offered for medical and surgical benefits.
The Conference Committee subsequently reached an agreement in resolving differences between the two versions of the bill. This agreement was included in the " Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008," which passed the Senate with my support on October 1, 2008, and was signed into law by the President (P.L. 110-343).
Access to affordable and quality health care for all Americans will continue to be one of my top priorities. If you would like to receive timely email alerts regarding the latest congressional actions and my weekly e-newsletter, please sign up via my web site at: www.chambliss.senate.gov
There is a television character whose line is "Totally Awesome, Dude!" I can think of nothing better to say than that.
Thank you so very much, Heavenly Father! You gave us good representation in our nation's capital - men and women who really care about the least of these, OUR brethren. They have come together this year from both sides of the aisle and worked diligently to better things for Americans with disabilities, the aged, and our nation's psychiatric patients. Bless them, Father! Guide their steps, ease their anxieties, and give them wisdom to continue to honor You and to govern by Your principles. Thank you that American health care will thrive under a Godly administration! We give You all the praise, in Jesus' name. Amen.
THANK YOU, REPRESENTATIVES, FOR
Representatives, don't stop here. Please decriminalize mental illness. Psychiatric patients are imprisoned and some are dying.
Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally Ill