Despite an increase in Americans' anxiety, marked by rising anti-anxiety prescriptions and a recent study that shows that nine in 10 adults say they're more stressed after Sept. 11, an amendment to expand mental health coverage was struck down.
On Dec. 18, a House-Senate conference committee voted against the Mental Health Equitable Treatment Act of 2001, which was attached to the fiscal year 2002 Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations bill.
The business community claimed costs associated with the amendment would have caused some employers to drop mental health coverage altogether. "It was hardly the budget-buster the opposition says it is," Russ Newman, PhD, JD, told National Public Radio's "Marketplace" on the day of the decision. "The real issue is discrimination against mental illness, which is short-sighted," he said.
The amendment, which was approved by the Senate last October, would have required insurers that provide mental health coverage to offer those benefits at the same level of physical health coverage. Instead, the conferees voted for a one-year extension of the 1996 law so that a compromise can be worked out. The 1996 law prohibits private insurers from establishing limits on mental health coverage.
President Bush and Congress indicated they are willing to continue to work on the parity issue. APA officials are optimistic that the activities of 2001 have formed the groundwork for a parity victory later this year.
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