Senators Introduce Mental Illness Parity Legislation – Senate Committee Set for Immediate Action on Bill Ending Insurance Discrimination
February 13, 2007
On February 12, a bipartisan group of senators, led by longtime NAMI allies Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and Mike Enzi (R-WY), introduced legislation to require employers and health plans to equally cover treatment for mental illness. This legislation, known as the Mental Health Parity Act of 2007 (S 558), would expand an existing 1996 federal law and prohibit employers and health plans from imposing durational treatment limits and financial limitations on coverage for mental illness that do not apply to all other medical conditions.
Advocates are strongly encouraged to contact their Senators and urge them to support and cosponsor S 558. It is critically important that strong and immediate bipartisan support be demonstrated for this legislation.
When contacting Senate offices, it is critically important to remind them that:
- Mental illnesses are real
- Treatment works
- There is no justification for a health plan to impose limits or conditions on coverage that do not apply to all other illnesses, and
- After nearly 15 years of delay, it is time for the Senate finally pass parity legislation.
How to Reach Senate Offices
We recommend that NAMI advocates use a range of methods to reach Senate offices.
- E-Mail and Regular Mail – Use NAMI's Legislative Action Center, a web-based tool, to immediately send a letter to both of your Senators. This tool also allows you to print the letter to mail or fax to your Senator.
- Phone calls – All Senate offices can be reached through the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 (this is NOT a toll-free call) or avoid long distance charges by getting the phone numbers of each Senator’s state offices in the Blue Pages of your local phone book.
Immediate Senate HELP Committee Action
Senator Kennedy, the Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, is planning to move S 558 out of the Committee and to the full Senate on February 14. This effort is supported by Senator Mike Enzi, the Ranking Republican on the HELP Committee. This plan for quick action clearly demonstrates the strong commitment that all 3 senators have for bringing this measure forward in 2007.
It is especially important that all Senators on the HELP Committee hear from NAMI advocates both before, and after, the Committee acts on February 14. A list of Committee members can be found at: http://help.senate.gov/About.html.
NAMI Supports S 558
NAMI has been pursuing insurance parity legislation at the state and federal level for more than 15 years. While these efforts have contributed to enactment of 41 state laws, the 1996 federal law and parity for 9.5 million federal workers, retirees and their dependents, the job is not yet done. It is critically importance that federal law expand to include a meaningful parity standard for the estimated 82 million Americans enrolled in self-insured health plans that are exempt from state parity laws. Enactment of S 558 will ensure that people living with mental illness (and their families) no longer face arbitrary limits on inpatient days and outpatient visits, or financial limitations that do not also apply to all other medical conditions.
Click here to view NAMI’s press statement in support of S 558
Already, 21 senators have agreed to sign on as original cosponsors of S 558. NAMI advocates are urged to contact their offices to thank them for support the bill. Click here to view the list of original cosponsors of S 558.
Details on S 558
Beyond the basic principles of equitable coverage, there are a number of details in this legislation of great concern to NAMI members – including how this new federal legislation would interact with existing state parity laws and how the parity standard relates to how health plans manage coverage. Click here to view details on S 558