A bipartisan mental health parity bill introduced Thursday in the Senate and House would close loopholes in a 1996 mental health parity law, sponsors say.
The bill would bar health plans from setting different treatment limits or financial requirements for mental health treatment than for medical and surgical treatments, according to the Coalition for Fairness in Mental Illness Coverage, a Washington, D.C.-based group that includes physicians and other providers in mental health.
The unequal requirements that now exist include higher patient co-payments, fewer hospital days, higher patient deductibles and fewer outpatient visits, the group says in a release.
The measure is similar to a bill that passed the Senate last year but died in the House because of lack of support by the Republican leadership.
The new bill was introduced by Sens. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Reps. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) and Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.). It is named after the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, Democrat from Minnesota, who was a major supporter of last year's bill.
"This legislation makes the promise of full parity for persons with mental illness a reality," Paul Appelbaum, M.D., president of the American Psychiatric Association, says in the release.