Mental Health Parity Hidden in Bailout

Congress’s $700 billion bailout package unbeknownst to seemingly everyone, or at least me, also contained within it a valuable piece of legislation regarding mental health services that advocates have been fighting for years to pass. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 was passed into law as part of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (HR 1424). NPR’s All Things Considered brought this story to my attention.

The law addresses the concept of mental health parity–that mental health issues are insured to the same degree as is what is traditionally considered to be more physical medical problems (we all know that mental health issues are physical illnesses of course). In 1996 Sen. Pete Domenici and Sen. Paul Wellstone struggled to pass a “partial parity” that offered some regulation of the insurance industry, but was filled with loop holes. Another mental health parity bill gained momentum in 2001, but ultimately failed as one of its biggest champions, Wellstone, was killed in a plane accident.

Now it seems, mental health parity has quietly snuck in with the added efforts of both Ted and Patrick Kennedy (who at one time had somewhat opposing bills) and Paul Wellstone’s son, David. This new law will require businesses that employ fifty or more people and that offer health insurance coverage to offer the same extent of coverage for mental health services as all other benefits. This seems to close the major loop hole in the original parity law. Most of these requirements are due to take effect in one year. Sen. Wellstone surely must be smiling somewhere.

Bookmark and Share

About The Country Doc

Practicing full spectrum family medicine and teaching the next generation of physicians from the heart of logging and farming country in Elma, Washington.
Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Mental Health Parity Hidden in Bailout

  1. Stuart O'Neill says:

    Great news, Doc. At least the person who works for the mid-sized or large company can get help.  I only wish it also mandated the acceptance of all medications that a doctor prescribes. While most people work for biz over 50 people, I sure never have. So I’ve been stuck with my own insurance or no insurance. I was in the no insurance category when my heart attacks hit. Now with a deeply complicated medical history it would cost around $800-$1200 a month with a $5K deductible. Did you know that some programs to cover uninsured don’t even cover Plavix and Vytorin? Of course those two keep me alive.At one point my personal med costs were around $700 a month. Thank god they aren’t now. This is wonderful news.Now if we can get the word out that mental illness, a term I hate, could be the reason for the guy with a hair-trigger anger or the employee that never has any energy and who’s never on time or…..a thousand others symptoms of brain chemical imbalance.I think the savings that the biz world would realize would astound them.  This is part of a wellness approach to employee-employer relationships. Perhaps this will be the content of another post someday.

  2. bjerryberg says:

    Barack’s priorities involve Bailing Out Investment Bankers, first and foremost. How very BUSH-LIKE.Given those lunatic Wall Sreet/Londoners current rate of gambling losses there won’t be anything left in the US budget. Barack says he is for the people–you might want to ask WHICH people.