REMARKS OF SENATOR EDWARD M. KENNEDY ON THE PASSAGE OF THE MENTAL HEALTH PARITY BILL
(As Prepared for Delivery)
I want to start by thanking my colleague, Senator Domenici, for his tirelesseffort. And I want to recognize the late Senator Paul Wellstone, who championed thisfight for so many years. Without the leadership of these two remarkable Senators, wewouldn’t be here on this historic day.
Americans believe that we are all created equal.
This bill brings us closer to that ideal by ending health insurance discriminationfor mental illnesses for 113 million Americans.
One in five Americans will face mental illness this year. Today the United StatesSenate says to them loud and clear, you will no longer suffer in the shadows. With thisbill, your health insurance will cover your illness.
With modern medicine, mental illnesses are just as treatable as physical illnesses.So it makes no sense for health insurance to cover one but not the other. When you’rebattling depression and other mental illnesses, the last thing you should have to worryabout is whether your insurance will cover your treatment and care.
In treating the mental illnesses of our fellow citizens, they get their health back,but we get back our friends, our families and our coworkers. This is the right thing tohelp them live fuller lives. But it’s also the right thing to do for our nation and oureconomy. Currently, mental illnesses cost over $324 billion in treatment expenses, lostworker productivity, and crime.
The bill we passed represents an agreement, after ten long years of stalemate, notonly between Democrats and Republicans, but also with the mental health community,businesses and the insurance industry.
We came together and decided that for too long, persons living with mental healthdisorders have suffered discrimination at all levels of society. They have faced stigma intheir communities and prejudice on the job. They have been forced to pay more for theservices they need than those with other kinds of illnesses.
Together, we have worked to end that discrimination. And the bill we passedtoday will begin to right these wrongs.