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Senate Passes Bailout Bill That Includes Mental Parity

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Members of the Senate tonight have voted 74-25 to pass H.R. 1424, a bill that would authorize the Treasury Department to spend up to $700 billion to buy back troubled assets from financial institutions.

The version of H.R. 1424 that passed is much longer than H.R. 3997, the Bailout program bill that the House defeated Monday.

Lawmakers created the version of the bill that passed in the Senate by putting the text of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, which includes the Troubled Asset Repurchase Program provisions, into a bill that originally was introduced as the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.

Like the TARP section of H.R. 3997, the TARP section of H.R. 1424 would let the Treasury secretary use the repurchase program to shore up retirement plans but would exclude Section 409A non-qualified deferred compensation plans from the list of the types of retirement plans that ought to be helped.

The Senate version of H.R. 1424 also includes a collection of “tax extenders,” or provisions that would extend certain tax breaks, such as alternative minimum tax relief; a break for taxpayers who contribute individual retirement account assets to charity, and a provision for the “extension and modification of duty suspension on wool products.”

The tax extenders and the mental health parity section were already in H.R. 1424 before the Senate added the TARP section to the bill.

The mental health parity section of the expanded bill would require group health plans that cover mental health care to offer the same level of coverage for mental health care that they offer for other types of health care.

The version of H.R. 3997 that failed in the House Monday also included the mental health parity legislation.


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