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Wilson Fights for Mental Health Parity

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Wilson Fights For Mental Health Parity

Wilson offers Domenici mental health legislation as substitute for House bill

Congresswoman Heather Wilson (R-NM) today offered an amendment during Rules Committee consideration of H.R. 1424, The Paul Wellstone Mental Health Addiction Equity Act, that would strengthen the bill and ensure it closely resembles S. 588, the already-passed Senate mental health bill. The Senate bill was authored by Senators Pete Domenici and Ted Kennedy.

Wilson offered her amendment with cosponsors Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), Rep. John Kline (R-MN), and Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA). Collectively, they represented the minority views of the House Ways and Means Committee, Energy and Commerce Committee, and Education and Labor Committee. All three committees have jurisdiction over this legislation.

The House Rules Committee will decide overnight whether to rule Wilson's amendment in order. If ruled in order, the amendment can be debated and voted on during floor consideration of the Paul Wellstone Mental Health Addiction Equity Act.

Wilson supports passage of strong mental health parity legislation, but believes the Senate bill is much better policy than the bill currently under consideration in the House. The Senate bill passed by unanimous consent on September 18, 2007.

Mental health parity would eliminate the financial disparities in group health plans with regards to co-pays and deductibles and restrictions on the number of visits experienced by those afflicted with mental illness compared those who suffer from physical medical conditions.

The House bill requires coverage of all mental health conditions listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) manual if any mental conditions are covered.

"By requiring plans to cover all conditions in the DSM IV manual, it makes it more likely that employers and health insurance companies won't cover any mental health benefits. This would hurt coverage for serious mental health conditions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia," says Wilson.

Wilson's amendment would have fixed this situation by adopting the Senate standard that allows insurance plans to cover only serious, biologically-based mental conditions.

"This legislation should strengthen coverage of mental conditions and improve access to needed benefits, not weaken them."

The Senate bill is authored by Senators Pete Domenici and Ted Kennedy. Domenici has been working on the issue of mental health parity for more than ten years. The Senate bill is a product of negotiations over two years and represents a bipartisan compromise supported by the mental health community, business, and the insurance industry.

"I've spent much of my career in the Senate trying to raise mental health awareness and working to end all forms of discrimination against people who suffer from a mental illness. It is with a true sense of joy and triumph that I report Senate passage of the Mental Health Parity Act of 2007 (S.588), and with great anticipation that I look ahead to full congressional approval of the bill," said Domenici.

The Senate bill is the only language that can pass the Senate and become law.

New Mexico is home to approximately 370,000 individuals with some form of mental disorder. Of those, 71,000 adults have a serious mental illness, which includes individuals with schizophrenia, manic depression, major depression, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. In addition, there are nearly 19,000 children and adolescents in New Mexico with a severe emotional disturbance.

Wilson is a member of the Health Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee. She offered a similar amendment during committee consideration of this bill.

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