09.19.07

DOMENICI, KENNEDY & ENZI GAIN LONG-AWAITED SENATE PASSAGE OF NEW MENTAL HEALTH PARITY BILL Legislation Will Build on Landmark 1996 Parity Law

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.)and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) today looked ahead to pushing for congressional passage of theirsweeping mental health legislation following Senate approval of the bill Tuesday evening.The Senate approved the Mental Health Parity Act of 2007 (S.558) by unanimousconsent. The measure, approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and PensionsCommittee in mid-February, was developed by the lawmakers in talks with mental health,insurance and business organizations to craft compromise legislation. The bill, with 57cosponsors, has broad bipartisan support. S.558 builds on a 1996 Mental Health Parity law by requiring health insurance plans thatoffer mental health coverage to provide that coverage on par with financial and treatmentcoverage offered for other physical illnesses. It does not mandate that group plans must provideany mental health coverage, but will improve coverage for about 113 million Americans. “I am elated that the Senate has at long last passed a broad mental health parity bill. It isa needed next step toward ending the insurance discrimination imposed on millions of peoplewith serious, but treatable mental health problems,” Domenici said. “The broad support we havefor mental health parity will propel this bill toward enactment this year. We need to lift therestrictive standard being applied to mental health coverage and allow these diseases of the brainto be treated under the broader standard applied to medical and surgical coverage.” “The passage of the Mental Health Parity bill underscores our commitment to treat allpatients facing all diseases with the dignity and respect they deserve. This new legislation willbring dramatic new help to millions of Americans who today are denied needed mental healthcare and treatment. This bill represents a major breakthrough for those with mental health needs,ensuring their access to fair and equitable health insurance,” Kennedy said. “This legislation will bring fairness and relief to millions of Americans with mentalillness. It unites mental health advocacy, provider, employer, and insurance communities toadvance a noble goal. The bill is years, if not decades, in the making, and reflects countlesshours of sweat and negotiation. I want to thank Senator Domenici and Senator Kennedy for theirinvaluable leadership on this important issue,” Enzi said. Domenici is a long-time mental health advocate, while Kennedy and Enzi are chairmanand ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and PensionsCommittee that has jurisdiction over this issue. S.558 would provide mental health parity for about 113 million Americans who work foremployers with 50 or more employees. It will ensure that health plans do not place morerestrictive conditions on mental health coverage than on medical or surgical coverage. As such itwould require: • Parity for financial requirements like deductibles, co-payments, and annual and lifetimelimits; and,• Parity for treatment limitations such as the number of covered hospital days and visits.The measure was crafted following almost two years of negotiation involving lawmakers,mental health, insurance and business organizations to develop compromise legislation. TheSenate bill has been endorsed by scores of business, insurance and health organizations. The 1996 Mental Health Parity law, authored by Domenici and the late MinnesotaSenator Paul Wellstone, only provided parity for annual and lifetime limits between mentalhealth coverage and medical surgical coverage. The new Senate-passed bill expands parity by including deductibles, co-payments, outof-pocket expenses, coinsurance, covered hospital days, and covered out-patient visits. Themeasure also includes a small business exemption for companies with fewer than 50 employees,as well as a cost exemption for all businesses. Today, about 26 percent of American adults, or nearly 58 million people, suffer from adiagnosable mental disorder each year. Six percent of these adults suffer from a serious mentalillness. Mental illness is also closely linked to the more than 30,000 suicides in the United Statesevery year. In addition, an estimated 16 percent of all inmates in state and local jails suffer froma mental illness. --30--

Press Contact

CHRIS GALLEGOS/Domenici (202) 224-7082 LAURA CAPPS/Kennedy (202) 224-2633 MICHAEL MAHAFFEY/Enzi (202) 224-6770