RENEWABLE ENERGY AND JOB CREATION ACT OF 2008--Continued -- (Senate - September 23, 2008)
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Mr. KENNEDY. I thank all my colleagues in the Senate and their staffs who have worked so long and hard and well to bring us to this historic day on mental health parity.
In particular, I recognize our late friend and colleague, Senator Paul Wellstone, who championed this fight for so many years. Without the leadership of Senator Wellstone and our colleague Senator Domenici, we would not be here today.
Americans believe we are all created equal. This legislation brings us closer to that ideal by ending a particularly invidious form of discrimination--discrimination in health insurance against tens of millions of Americans who suffer from mental illness.
One in five Americans will face mental illness this year. Today at least, the Senate can say to them loud and clear, you will no longer have to suffer in the shadows.
Through the miracle of modern medicine, mental illnesses are just as treatable as physical illnesses--but patients with mental illnesses are still treated very differently.
That difference is unfair and unacceptable. It makes no sense for health insurance companies to charge patients more for mental health care than they do for physical health services.
It is tragic when any family member is diagnosed with an illness; it is heart-wrenching for a parent to watch their child suffer.
But the tragedy is even greater, when treatment is denied solely because the child's illness is a mental illness.
This discrimination can tear families apart, exactly when they should be coming together to support their loved one. The last thing any parent should have to worry about is whether insurance will pay for the needed care and treatment.
When mental illnesses of our fellow citizens are treated, they get their health back--and we get back our friends, our family members, and our coworkers.
The parity legislation before us is a landmark agreement after 10 years of stalemate, not only in Congress, but also with the mental health community, businesses, and the insurance industry.
Now, we have come together and agreed at long last to end the senseless discrimination at all levels of society that has plagued persons living with mental illness.
Together, we have worked to end injustice that has denied them the care and treatment they deserve. We have agreed that equal treatment of mental illness is not just an insurance issue--it is also an issue of civil rights.
At its heart, mental health parity is an issue of fundamental justice, and today that fundamental justice arrives in the lives of millions of our fellow Americans, and I thank all my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for making this day possible.