President Bush has signed controversial legislation to shore up the financial markets that passed the U.S. House, 263-171, carrying with it a provision requiring employers and health insurance companies that offer mental-health benefits to provide them on par with medical benefits.
The House passed the bill after the Senate on Oct. 1 drafted and approved the measure, 74-25, adding several tax breaks and other legislative provisions in the process to help curry favor with congressional holdouts. This time around, 91 House Republicans and 172 Democrats backed the legislation.
In a procedural move, the Senate used a previously approved mental-health parity bill as the main vehicle. While both chambers had passed versions of mental-health parity, the bill nevertheless faced hurdles that could have held its passage at bay.
Millions of Americans will now be assured greater access to mental and behavioral health coverage while continuing to benefit from the innovative programs health plans have developed to promote high-quality, evidence-based care, Karen Ignagni, president and chief executive of Americas Health Insurance Plans, said in a written statement. -- by Matthew DoBias