Legislation that would require insurance companies to offer mental-health benefits on par with physical benefits has been included in a Senate-drafted bill that allots more than $700 billion to the federal government to help stabilize the banking and lending industries.
Senate leaders said that they would attempt to pass the Wall Street lifesaver after the House failed to do so on Sept. 29. While the core of the so-called bailout legislation is roughly the same, the Senate package also is expected to include several tax breaks that previously cleared the Senate but which could spur debate in the House. The Senate is expected to vote on the package tonight. If approved, the House could take up the bill as early as Oct. 2.
Essentially, the Senate blueprint includes the already agreed upon mental-health parity language that passed the Senate as part of a tax extenders package and the House as a stand-alone bill, said Steve Vetzner, a spokesman for Mental Health America, a not-for-profit group aimed at raising awareness of mental-health issues across the country. In a procedural move, the Senate will use the House version of the bill as a shell, meaning it will strip out all the previous language and replace it with the Senates own version.
Were in favor of parity getting passed, and we want the two bodies to come together and get it done, Vetzner said. -- by Matthew DoBias
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