Last night, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act, HR 1424, by a 268-148 vote.
Thank you to everyone who has advocated on behalf of this important bill in the past year! Legislative victories like the one last night are only possible because of the dedication and efforts of advocates like you.
Yesterday was the first time that a bill to end insurance discrimination came to the floor of the House of Representatives. HR 1424--sponsored by Representatives Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.) and Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.)--requires health insurance companies to cover substance use disorders and mental illnesses at the same level that they cover other medical conditions. Prohibitive cost and lack of insurance coverage are among the top reasons that people in need of addiction treatment do not receive it.
The next step for this important legislation is a "conference committee" between the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. The Senate passed an insurance parity bill (S.558) unanimously in December 2007. The conference committee's role is to find a compromise between the bills from each chamber. Although both the Senate and House versions of legislation aim to increase insurance coverage of addiction and mental illness, the House bill is "stronger" in several ways. For example, HR 1424 requires that out-of-network benefits for addiction match out-of-network benefits for general medical care, and it defines the set of substance use disorders and mental health conditions that insurance companies must cover.
Despite yesterday's victory, our work is not over yet! We must now ensure that the conference committee adopts the strongest possible consumer protections. More information will be circulated on this process as it becomes available. But in the meantime, congratulations for your outstanding advocacy for HR 1424!