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Mental Health Parity Legislation

Recently, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed the Mental Health Parity House Bill 4423, which mandates that insurers and government programs cover mental health in the same capacity that they cover physical health. The Bill was introduced by Representative Ruth Balser (D-Newton).

This bill builds on the first Mental Health Parity House Bill (2000) which gave full coverage to “biologically-based” mental disorders, such as neurodegenerative disorders, but left out coverage for “non-biologically-based” mental illness, such as depression and anxiety. This new bill groups all mental illness together and includes post-traumatic stress disorder (specifically mentioning rape), eating disorders, and substance abuse. Additionally, the bill expands mental health coverage for children.

The language of the bill gives power to the definitions of illness as stated in the DSM over any definitions used by government or private insurers. This is similar to a bill that passed in the US House of Representatives — but not in the US Senate — in March 2008. The current US Senate bill only specifies that insurers abide by existing state and federal definitions of illness.

The Massachusetts State Senate will end the current session at the end of July. They should pass Representative Balser’s legislation before leaving for summer recess.

YOU CAN HELP! The National Alliance on Mental Illness has set up a letter that you may use to contact your Senator and Representative to tell them to support the bill.

Mental Health Parity Bill 4423 TEXT

Review and Evaluation of Proposed Legislation Entitled: “An Act Relative to Mental Health Parity” House Bill No. 4423

House Approves Bill on Mental Health Parity – NY Times March 2008

Erica Pasciullo, BA

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One Response to Mental Health Parity Legislation

  1. Erica July 11, 2008 at 2:42 pm #

    Update: The house and senate reached an agreement on the bill today. According to the agreement, employers providing mental health benefits now have to provide the same coverage as they do for medical care. Only small businesses (<50 employees) are exempt.

    The Medicare bill passed this week already shows how much this will affect care: mental health copays are now the same as medical copays.

    For more information, see this article from The Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121574431612444989.html

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