Mental health parity legislation picked up steam on March 13 at a hearing before the House Subcommittee on Employer-Employee Relations.
APA participated, along with a coalition of supporters, and provided testimony that emphasized four points in support of parity:
All people with mental health diagnoses, not just "severe mental illnesses," deserve the protection of parity.
The cost of full parity is negligible. According to the Congressional Budget Office, full parity would cause insurance premiums to rise by just 0.9 percent if the APA-supported Mental Health Equitable Treatment Act was passed. The law was introduced by Sens. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Paul Wellstone (D- Minn.) in the Senate and Reps. Marge Roukema (R- N.J.) and Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) in the House.
Full parity must be required for all aspects of insurance coverage, including day and annual visit limits or other limits on duration or scope of treatment, deductibles, co-payments and maximum out-of-pocket limits. Only this will ensure employees have nondiscriminatory mental health coverage.
Experience in 34 states demonstrates that parity will not lead to widespread loss of insurance coverage, as opponents frequently suggest.
According to Peter Newbould, director of congressional affairs in the APA Practice Organization, the bill has "more sponsors than ever." And, he notes, Sen. Domenici's discussions with the White House have led to the President's desire to pass a parity bill in 2002.
At Monitor press time, Newbould thought there could be another hearing before June.
Members are urged to call their representatives and ask them to support HR 4066, the new mental health parity bill.