Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007

By:  Kenny Hulshof
Date: March 5, 2008
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. HULSHOF. Mr. Speaker, I am very glad that we are taking up mental health parity today. I support mental health and substance abuse parity, as does most of this body. But there are a few details of this bill I would like to change to ensure that true parity be the final result of the legislation before us.

But because this is brought up under a closed rule, these vital changes cannot be made, thus I will oppose this bill.

Let me add at the outset that I have only the utmost respect for my friend and fellow Health Subcommittee member Jim Ramstad. He is a champion on this issue, and the tenants of mental health parity that most here support are in no-small-part thanks to his intelligent, passionate advocacy. I thank the gentleman for that example and his service to this institution.

September 18, the Senate voice voted S. 558, legislation that was the product of input and agreement between mental health advocates, policy experts, health providers, employers, and authoring legislators.

I am concerned that in passing the language in this bill, this House will be marginalizing itself--that in passing a bill with no real hopes of adoption by the other body this body will be seen as out-of-touch, a secondary player, and at worst could hold up much needed mental health legislation.

I would like to highlight two key differences between the House and Senate bills, using the language from the Senate compromise bill--the codification of the DSM-IV, Diagnostic Statistical Manual, and protection of Medical Management.

DSM

I proposed two amendments at the Ways and Means Committee that would have won my vote there and here on the floor and would move this bill more quickly through a House-Senate conference and to the President's desk for signing.

The first issue, this legislation creates a broad new mandate by codifying usage of the DSM-4 (DSM-IV).

H.R. 1424 imposes a broad mandate to cover all mental illnesses listed in the DSM-IV Manual. DSM is the Diagnostic Statistical Manual that provides diagnostic criteria and codes for billing health plans.

Health Plans will be required to provide coverage for all the conditions listed in DSM-IV--conditions such as caffeine withdrawal and jet lag are included, as other speakers have and will discuss. This is simply a benefits mandate.

The bill exceeds the stated objective of achieving ``parity'' by requiring coverage of all conditions in the diagnostic manual for mental health and substance abuse disorders if a plan decides to cover any mental health or substance abuse conditions at all. No similar Federal requirement applies to any other category of benefits.

Currently, there is no Federal definition of the scope of medical/surgical benefits that plans must offer. Therefore, this is NOT true parity.

MEDICAL MANAGEMENT

The House bill contains no provision to protect medical management practices. These can include such things as coordinated disease management, care management initiatives, health coaching, and patient support tools to improve the quality and accessibility of mental health benefits.

The use of medical management allows plans to provide the right course of treatment and avoid expending resources on ineffective or unproven treatments.

The Senate bill would protect plans ability to manage mental health benefits in this way, even if such management is more intensive than the management of other types of medical services.

The reason FEHB plans have been able to keep their costs down is because they are allowed to offer medical management programs to determine whether a treatment is medically necessary or not.

In fact, the principal investigator who evaluated parity for Federal employees stated in his testimony to the Energy and Commerce Committee that ``these findings suggest that parity of coverage of mental health and substance abuse services, when coupled with management of care, is feasible .....''

If enacted, H.R. 1424 will limit the ability of group health plans to apply a full range of medical management tools--including the use of provider networks and contracting--tools essential in controlling costs and ensuring quality.

GENETIC INFORMATION NON-DISCRIMINATION ACT

I would like to make one other point on the attachment of the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act to H.R. 1424, legislation I supported out of Committee.

But at Ways and Means we fixed language protecting those who donate their time and selves for clinical research, but this final language is not comprehensive.

I am concerned with the definitions of genetic testing/services, that they fully include protection for those going into clinical research. An example: John's employer learns that John is signing up for clinical research and fires him or his insurer drops his policy. The bill now says ``genetic services received pursuant to clinical research.'' So, John isn't protected because he has not had a genetic test or service, he's only signed up to do it. Or maybe the employer discovered that John is interested in participating and fires him.

The services themselves are protected, which is good. However, the definition is missing the protection of the ability to participate in clinical research. The Ways and Means Committee passed language protecting this, and I hope that this language can be perfected at conference with the Senate to protect all clinical research participants.