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Renewal of 1996 Insurance Parity Law Included in Minimum Wage-Estate Tax Bill – Measure Clears House, Blocked in Senate

August 8, 2006

A controversial bill cutting the federal estate tax, increasing the minimum wage and renewing popular expired tax breaks includes a provision that would renew the 1996 Mental Health Parity Act.  The 1996 requires equitable coverage for treatment of mental illness with respect to annual and lifetime dollar limits (but not cost sharing or durational limits on inpatient days or outpatient visits).  Congress has renewed the 1996 law annual ever since 2001.

The renewal of the 1996 law is included in the so-called "tri-fecta" bill that integrates expansion of exemptions from the federal estate tax, an increase in the federal minimum wage and renewal of certain corporate tax breaks.  The bill (HR 5970) cleared the House on July 29, 230-180.  On August 3, the Senate fell 4 votes short of the 60 votes needed to cut off debate and move to pass the measure.  Efforts to pass the measure in the Senate are expected to be renewed when Congress returns in September.