Today, the House passed the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (HR 6983) by a vote of 376 to 47. The legislation will end discrimination against patients seeking treatment for mental illness. Specifically, the bill prohibits insurers and group health plans from imposing treatment or financial limitations when they offer mental health benefits that are more restrictive from those applied to medical and surgical services. As Chairman George Miller explained, “approximately forty-four million Americans suffer from mental illness, but only one-third receive treatment. One reason is that private health insurers generally provide less coverage for mental illnesses and substance abuse than for other medical conditions. This bill is an important step towards ending the stigma attached to mental illness and providing fair coverage to those in need.”
This legislation reflects a House-Senate agreement on the Mental Health Parity bill – the Senate had passed its version of the bill in September 2007 and the House passed its version in March 2008.
Speaker Pelosi on passage:
Today, the vote by the House this evening has given hope and help to the millions of American families dealing with mental illness and addiction. This significant accomplishment will help ensure that those suffering can receive the often lifesaving treatment they need.
This long-overdue legislation has brought mental illness and addiction out of the shadows and to the forefront of our work here in Congress. By requiring that illness in the brain be treated just like illness anywhere else in the body for insurance purposes, we are helping to end discrimination against those who seek treatment for mental illness and saving lives.
Untreated mental illness results in 1.3 billion lost days of work or school in our country every year. Yet bipartisan and independent research shows there is no significant cost to insuring mental illness like any other medical disease. With this legislation, we are making an investment in the strength and productivity of our nation. This will also benefit some of our returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who later become employed in the private sector. For those brave men and women who served in the National Guard and the Reserves, but don't receive VA care for their entire lifetime, this will help ensure they receive treatment if they ever struggle with mental illness.
I salute my colleagues for helping to ensure that individuals with mental health illnesses and addictions are given the attention, treatment, and resources they need to live a healthy life. I urge the Senate and the President to enact this essential legislation into law without delay.
Rep. Patrick Kennedy, the primary sponsor of the bill:
Rep. Susan Davis:
Rep. Rob Andrews: