Clarification: The bill heading to Bush would extend the 1996 law's prohibition on annual and lifetime dollar limits on mental health coverage. Separate legislation introduced by Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and the late Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) would expand the law by prohibiting all limits on mental health services. The Domenici-Wellstone bill has not been passed.
A bill to expand 6-year-old mental health insurance protections is on its way to President Bush following passage last week in the House and Senate. Lobbyists expect Bush to sign the bill. Enacted in 1996, the original "mental health parity" law prohibited the setting of annual and lifetime dollar limits on mental health coverage. Legislation introduced last year by Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and the late Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) would take the 1996 law further by prohibiting all limits on mental health services, such as the number of allowed outpatient visits. "Our goal is to end insurance discrimination against people with mental illness ... and the enactment of legislation that would provide full mental health parity," Ralph Ibson, vice president of government affairs at the National Mental Health Association, told Modern Healthcare's Daily Dose. -- by Jeff Tieman