National Alliance on Mental Illness
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March 11, 2002

House Subcommittee Sets Hearing on Mental Illness Parity

On March 13, the House Education and the Workforce Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on mental illness insurance parity - the first hearing on parity in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1995. This hearing will afford NAMI advocates an important opportunity to impress on a key House Committee the need for federal legislation to end insurance discrimination against people with severe mental illness and their families.

Action Required

In the few days remaining before the hearing, it is critically important for NAMI advocates and affiliates in the states and districts of members of the Education and the Workforce Committee to contact their members of Congress and urge them to attend the hearing and express support for parity. Even though the hearing is actually being convened by the Employer-Employee Relations Subcommittee, all members of the full Committee can request to attend the hearing and offer support for non-discriminatory coverage of mental illness treatment.

All members of Congress can be reached by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or by visiting Write to Congress.

When calling members of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, NAMI advocates should urge them to contact Chairman John Boehner (R-OH) and Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA) to express support for quick action on mental illness parity and a Committee "mark-up" at the earliest possible date. In addition, NAMI advocates need to remind their members of Congress that:

  • mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and severe anxiety disorders are real illnesses of the brain,
  • treatment for mental illness works, if you can get it - treatment efficacy rates for most severe mental illnesses exceed those for heart disease and diabetes,
  • there is simply no scientific or medical justification for insurance coverage of mental illness treatment to be on different terms and conditions than other diseases,
  • discriminatory insurance coverage of mental illness bankrupts families and places a tremendous burden on taxpayers through suicide, homelessness and inappropriate "criminalization" of mental illness,
  • parity is affordable - the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the Senate-passed parity bill (S 543) would increase insurance premiums only 0.9% (a finding that is consistent with numerous previous studies that demonstrate how non-discriminatory coverage is economical and results in better treatment outcomes),
  • 34 states have enacted parity laws similar to current federal parity proposals, but even these laws offer no protection for workers and their families that receive coverage through self-insured ERISA plans.

House Education and the Workforce Committee

Chairman John Boehner (Hamilton, OH) Thomas Petri (Oshkosh, WI) Cass Ballenger (Hickory, NC)
Peter Hoekstra (Muskegon, MI) Buck McKeon (Palmdale, CA) Michael Castle (At-Large DE)
Sam Johnson (Richardson, TX) Jim Greenwood (Bucks County, PA) Lindsey Graham (Anderson, SC)
Mark Souder (Fort Wayne, IN) Charlie Norwood (Augusta, GA) Bob Schaffer (Fort Collins, CO)
Fred Upton (Kalamazoo, MI) Van Hilleary (Morristown, TN) Vernon Ehlers (Grand Rapids, MI)
Tom Tancredo (Littleton, CO) Ernie Fletcher (Lexington, KY) Jim DeMint (Greenville, SC)
Johnny Isakson (Cobb County, GA) Bob Goodlatte (Roanoke, VA) Judy Biggert (Clarendon Hills, IL)
Todd Platts (York, PA) Patrick Tiberi (Columbus, OH) Ric Keller (Orlando, FL)
Tom Osborne (Grand Island, NE) John Culberson (Houston, TX) Ranking Member George Miller (Concord, CA)
Dale Kildee (Flint, MI) Major Owens (Brooklyn, NY) Donald Payne (Newark, NJ)
Patsy Mink (Maui & Big Island, HI) Robert Andrews (Haddon Heights, NJ) Tim Roemer (South Bend, IN)
Robert Scott (Newport News, VA) Lynn Woolsey (Santa Rosa, CA) Lynn Rivers (Ypsilanti, MI)
Ruben Hinojosa (McAllen, TX) Carolyn McCarthy (Hempstead, NY) John Tierney (Peabody, MA)
Ron Kind (LaCrosse, WI) Loretta Sanchez (Garden Grove, CA) Harold Ford, Jr. (Memphis, TN)
Dennis Kucinich (Lakewood, OH) David Wu (Yamhill County, OR) Rush Holt (Princeton Junction, NJ)
Hilda Solis (El Monte, CA) Susan Davis (San Diego, CA) Betty McCollum (St. Paul, MN)

New House Parity Legislation Planned

After the March 13 hearing the longtime champions of mental illness parity in the House, Representatives Marge Roukema (R-NJ) and Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) are planning to introduce a new bill that will be based on the measure (S 543) that was reported by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee on August 1, 2001 and unanimously passed by the full Senate October 30, 2001 as an amendment to the FY 2002 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill. This measure was later rejected by key House leaders. All NAMI advocates are urged to contact their House members and encourage them to cosponsor this new Roukema-Kennedy bill to end discrimination against people with mental illness and their families.