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Mental Health America Hails Approval of Federal Parity Legislation
Date:10/3/2008

ognizes that mental health disorders are every bit as debilitating, and just as treatable, as cancer and diabetes.

"With economic problems making it even harder for Americans to afford treatment and driving up rates of depression and family difficulties, passage of this law is even more important."

The legislation, called the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, builds on the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the recent approval of Medicare legislation that reduces discriminatory co-payments for mental health services. Dr. Shern said the law's approval should spur further action to improve mental healthcare.

"This law sends a powerful message that we as a nation must address mental health conditions with the same urgency as other health problems," he said. "We must continue to enact policies that embrace that principle."

The legislation applies to group health plans of 51 or more employees. The bill takes the following steps:

-- If a plan offers out-of-network benefits for medical or surgical care, it must also offer out-of-network coverage for mental health and addiction treatment and provide services at parity.

-- Strong state parity and consumer protection laws are preserved while extending parity protection to 82 million more people who are not protected by state laws and 31 million in plans that are subject to state regulation.

State parity laws vary widely from state to state (for a map of state laws, visit http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/parity/states).

The legislation also establishes an important oversight mechanism to determine if insurers are discriminating against certain conditions or failing to cover some treatments.

In 2007, Mental Health America helped mount a nationwide tour that galvanized support for mental health parity. Led by
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SOURCE Mental Health America
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