Mental health parity bills pass House, Senate

This just in from the American Mental Health Counselors Association:

E-News from Washington
Vol. 08-36
September 24, 2008
House, Senate Approve Landmark Parity Bills
In historic votes held Tuesday, September 23, both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate passed separate bills requiring private sector health plans to end discriminatory coverage of mental health and addictive disorder services. The votes bring AMHCA, ACA and other mental health advocacy organizations significantly closer to the long-standing goal of enacting strong federal parity protections.
Both votes occurred Tuesday afternoon. A free-standing parity bill, H.R. 6983, the “Paul Wellstone-Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act,” was voted on in the House of Representatives. The bill included the parity protections agreed to earlier this year by House and Senate negotiators, as well as provisions to offset the legislation’s relatively small costs. The House vote was 376-47, a very strong show of support for the legislation.
In the Senate, identical parity protections were included as part of a broad package of wide-ranging tax-related provisions, including extensions of expiring and expired tax credit and incentive programs, a short-term adjustment to the alternative minimum tax, and provisions for helping victims of recent natural disasters. The Senate vote on the package was 93-2.
It is unclear what the next step for the parity legislation will be, although further votes are expected in the coming days. House and Senate members have not yet reached agreement on how to pay for the tax-related provisions approved by the Senate, which is why the House considered the parity legislation separately.
AMHCA and ACA thank their members who contacted Congress in support of parity. We encourage counselors to stay tuned for further developments, and to be prepared for more grassroots work as needed. We’re almost there!
For more information, contact either Beth Powell with AMHCA (at 800-326-2642, ext. 105, e-mail: bpowell@amhca.org) or Scott Barstow with ACA (at 800-347-6647 x234, e-mail: sbarstow@counseling.org).
Beth Powell
Director, Public Policy and Professional Issues
American Mental Health Counselors Association
The only organization working exclusively for mental health counselors
801 N. Fairfax Street, Suite 304
Alexandria, VA 22314

I am glad to see this but the devil will be in the details of how to pay for it when we are in such a financial crisis.