The U.S. House passed legislation that would require equal health insurance coverage for mental and physical illnesses when policies cover both in a bill that also includes a provision that would place additional requirements on physician-owned hospitals.
On March 5, House members voted 268 to 148 to pass the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007. The bill sent a message to advocates of physician-owned hospitals that their battle on Capitol Hill is far from over.
The bills lengthy provision on physician ownership calls for hospitals to submit an annual report containing a detailed description of each physician and all other owners and their ownership interest. It also states that physician owners in the aggregate must not own more than 40% of the total value of investment interest in the assets of the hospital or in an entity whose assets include the hospital.
Also, if a hospital admits a patient and does not have a physician available, it must disclose that information to the patients, the bill said. And the legislation also limits expansion in these facilities as it said the HHS Secretary must not permit an increase in the number of operating rooms and beds of a hospital to the extent that it would result in the number of operating rooms and beds exceeding 150% of the baseline number of operating rooms and beds.
In a news release, Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) applauded passage of the bill, as Kennedy said it takes a bold step toward ending discrimination for millions of Americans whose health insurance does not cover mental illness. In September, the Senate passed the Mental Health Parity Act of 2007. -- by Jessica Zigmond