Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have approved a version of a mental health bill that leaves out some insurance-related provisions included in an earlier version.
But Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., said during the bill “markup,” or revision session, that the committee will probably hold a hearing on the mental health services benefits insurers offer in September.
Upton told Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, D-Mass., that the committee staff would work with Kennedy and Rep. Frank Pallone, R-N.J., the highest-ranking Democrat on the committee, to make sure the hearing includes witnesses who can help the committee “see precisely where we are, and what we need to do.”
Kennedy is the great nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy, and a cousin of Patrick Kennedy. Patrick Kennedy is a former representative from Rhode Island who lobbied for the federal government to speed up implementation of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. After Patrick Kennedy left Congress, he published a memoir about the affects of mental illness and alcoholism on his family.
The House Energy committee marked up H.R. 2646, the Helping Families Mental Health Crisis Act bill, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., introduced the original version of the bill in June. The committee focused on marking up an amended version introduced by Upton and Pallone.
Members of the committee voted 53-0 Wednesday, at the end of the markup, to approve the Upton-Pallone version of the bill.
Both versions would help mental health care providers share more information with the relatives of people believed to be suffering from schizophrenia, major depressive disorder and other forms of serious mental illness.
Provisions in both would seek to expand the supply of mental health care providers and improve group health plan compliance with existing behavioral health benefits parity standards. One provision would require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, to give insurers and employers more guidance on how to meet parity standards.
The version approved omits a provision that could have required Medicaid to cover “all drugs” used to treat serious mental illness, and a provision that could have expressed the sense of Congress that psychiatrists should accept private health coverage, Medicaid and Medicare.