The House Education and Labor Committee, on July 18th, opted for a House version on mental health parity legislation over language crafted in the Senate, with both sides claiming to have bipartisan support.
The committee voted 33 to 9 to approve the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act, or H.R. 1424.
“Today’s vote is a victory in a long bipartisan effort to provide adequate health coverage to people who suffer from the debilitating – and sometimes life-threatening – effects of mental illness,” said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the committee. “This landmark legislation would close the gap in coverage for people without adequate access to treatment for mental illnesses.”
Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., one of the authors of the House bill, said he was “grateful my colleagues understand the critical nature of this legislation and, after careful review, have voted to continue the momentum towards passage.”
The legislation, he added, “is about treating people equally. If you can get care for heart disease, or cancer, or diabetes out of network, but you can’t get care for alcoholism, or depression, or PTSD out of network, that’s not equal.”
In passing H.R. 1424, committee members denied a proposal to instead use language crafted in the Senate by Sen. Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. Sen. Enzi is the ranking Republican member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Sen. Kennedy is the chairman of the committee, and Rep. Kennedy’s father.
The Senate language, taken from the Mental Health Parity Act of 2007, or S. 558, was offered by Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the ranking Republican on the panel’s Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions.