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Bush Signs Bailout Bill That Includes Mental Health Parity

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President Bush today signed a bailout bill that includes mental health parity legislation.

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives earlier voted 263-171 to pass the bill.

Technically, lawmakers were voting to approve amendments that the Senate made to H.R. 1424.

Before the bill came up for a vote, lawmakers voted 223-205 in favor of H. Res. 1525, a resolution that permitted H.R. 1424, Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, to come up on the House floor.

Senate leaders created the version of the bill that passed in the House today by putting the text of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, which includes the Troubled Asset Relief 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.

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.

H.R. 1424 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 are in H.R. 1424 because they already were in the bill when the Senate used it as the vehicle for considering the EESA legislation.

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.

America’s Health Insurance Plans, Washington, has issued a statement welcoming final passage of the mental health parity section of H.R. 1424.

“Millions of Americans will now be assured greater access to mental and behavioral health coverage while continuing to benefit from the innovative programs health plans have developed to promote high-quality, evidence-based care,” AHIP President Karen Ignagni says in a statement.

AHIP objected to provisions in some earlier versions of the mental health parity legislation that might have limited utilization management efforts, but it has supported the general concept of mental health parity legislation and the specific language included in H.R. 1424.

The National Business Group on Health, Washington, a coalition of large employers, says the parity section of H.R. 1424 gives employers some flexibility but nonetheless creates a new benefits mandate.

“At a time when large employers are working hard to maintain benefits, mandates have the potential over time to erode large employers’ ability to provide coverage to their workers and dependents,” NBGH President Helen Darling says in a statement. “Policymakers concluding that this legislation indicates an appetite for a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to health reform would be gravely mistaken. Our nation cannot mandate its way to meaningful and successful health care reform.”

This article has been updated throughout the day and could be updated again as news warrants.


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