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Major Victory on Parity

Historic Parity Legislation Signed into Law

Last Friday, the President signed into law historic legislation that significantly advances the rights and wellness of individuals with mental health and substance use conditions.

Each year, inequitable limits on mental health care in private health care plans cause a significant number of Americans to go without necessary treatment. Lack of affordable access to mental health care impacts not only the individual, but can also devastate the familial unit and children in their care.

A 1996 parity law initiated progress to erase longstanding discrimination against mental health conditions. Advocates and Congressional champions have been working tirelessly for the past twelve years to close existing loopholes and truly level the playing field between mental and physical health care.

The new Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, as contained in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (HR.1424), does just that-by requiring group health plans with 50 or more enrollees who choose to offer mental health and addiction benefits to provide them on the same terms as other medical conditions. The law prohibits such insurers from setting higher co-payments or lower limits on treatment for mental and addiction illnesses, all the while permitting stronger state laws to remain in tact. It is estimated that as a result of this legislation, 113 million Americans will receive more comprehensive coverage.

This is a proud day for the mental health community, and CWLA thanks and congratulates the diverse group of stakeholders who never stopped fighting for full mental health and addiction parity. CWLA particularly acknowledges the valiant efforts of several members of Congress who saw parity across the finish line, including but not limited to Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM), Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), Michael Enzi (R-WY) and Congressmen Jim Ramstad (R-MN) and Patrick Kennedy (D-RI).

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