The House of Representatives passed the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (HR 6983)
by a vote of 376 to 47.
In Minnesota's congressional delegation, only Michele Bachmann voted against the bill, a piece of legislation which is widely considered to be a legacy bill for retiring Third District Republican Congressman Jim Ramstad--and as the bill's name suggests, a memorial for the late Paul Wellstone.
With his colleague and friend, Senator Wellstone worked to put mental health coverage on the same level in insurance plans as physical ailments. Much of the senator's personal motivation came from his memories of his own family's struggles to pay the bills for his brother's mental health issues.
From Speaker Pelosi's blog:
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
About time. Thank you, Congressman Ramstad, for your tenacity. Shame on you, Representative Bachmann.
Photo: Representatives Jim Ramstad, Patrick Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, former First Lady Rossalyn Carter and David Wellstone rally for passage of the Wellstone bill in front of the U.S. Capitol Building