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House Panel Passes Mental Health Parity Bill, Rejects Senate Version

House Panel Passes Mental Health Parity Bill, Rejects Senate Version
23 Jul 2007
The House Education and Labor Committee on Wednesday voted 33 to 9 to approve legislation (HR 1424) that would require health insurers to provide equal insurance coverage levels for mental and physical illnesses, CQ Today reports.

The legislation differs somewhat from a Senate measure (S 558) passed earlier this year. The House bill would establish a federal parity as a minimum and not pre-empt states that have stricter parity provisions in place, while the Senate measure would pre-empt state laws regarding financial requirements and treatment limitations and would not allow them to impose more stringent guidelines. At least 35 states have mental health parity laws, some of which are more extensive than either bill, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (Kimitch, CQ Today, 7/18).

The House bill, which was sponsored by Reps. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) and Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.), has 268 co-sponsors (Leonatti, CongressDaily, 7/18). Some House Republicans “insisted that the Senate bill represents a negotiated compromise and stands a better chance of becoming law,” CQ Today reports. Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) offered the Senate measure as a substitute amendment to the House version, but the move was rejected 27 to 16.

Kline said, “The Senate bill is the product of two years of bipartisan negotiations between a broad, well-respected group of senators, mental health advocates, providers and business groups, who represent virtually all interests in the debate.” He added, “The House bill starts to immediately unravel support of the Senate compromise” (CQ Today, 7/18).

Committee Chair George Miller (D-Calif.) noted that 46 states have laws regulating mental health coverage but that federal law restricts the reach of those laws, and “many people are still left without sufficient mental health coverage” (CongressDaily, 7/18).

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