Monday, September 29, 2008

Mental Health in Washington: Mental Health Parity Almost Passed the Congress

Since Saturday, I have been in Washington, 5 blocks from the eye of the storm currently raging from Washington to Wall St.  While I have been following the current crisis closely, the reason for my visit was to attend the AAP's meeting of the Committee on Federal Government Affairs, as the representative of the APA.  We met with the staff from the AAP's Washington office, heard about the issues currently on the Hill that affect children, and spend a bit of time on Monday morning talking with our Representatives and Senators offices.  One issue that I knew was on the table was the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addictions Equity Act of 2008, which the Academy has supported for a long time.  The key paragraph in the bill is this:  
"the financial requirements applicable to such mental health or substance use disorder benefits are no more restrictive than the predominant financial requirements applied to substantially all medical and surgical benefits covered by the plan, and there are no separate cost sharing requirements that are applicable only with respect to mental health or substance use disorder benefits;"
This would be an enormous relief for families with large co-pays or deductible requirements, and will compliment the changes being put in place in Massachusetts.  So what is the catch?

Like our bill in Massachusetts, this bill is widely supported and has no overt opposition.  It has passed the House, where it is engrossed, and is stalled in the Senate because it has been linked to a tax bill that the House finds unacceptable.  To get through, the bill must either be separated in the Senate or passed in the House.

People know that this can be passed.  The current disaster in finance and credit has refocused everyone's attention, and we need to ensure that Congress doesn't forget the Mental Health Parity bill in the sound and fury currently underway 10 blocks from where I am typing this.

Please let your Representative and Senator know that they should not let this bill die with the end of this Congress.

I'm off to catch my flight home.  More about this on this blog.

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