Congress Passes Financial Bailout Legislation, Mental Health Parity

Front of Court House

In late breaking news from the United States Capitol, Congress has just approved a $700 billion financial bailout package, which also includes landmark mental health parity legislation (H.R. 1424/S. 558) and dozens of expiring tax breaks for businesses and individuals.This marks a tremendous victory for mental health advocates and others who have supported efforts to enact a parity bill for years. This legislation will require private health insurers to offer mental health and addiction benefits equal in cost and scope to traditional medical benefits.

Earlier this year, BIAA strongly endorsed the House version of this legislation. In a letter officially endorsing the bill in March, BIAA noted, "An intricate and intertwined relationship exists between substance abuse, mental health, and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Substance use and abuse is often both an antecedent to and a consequence of TBI."

Upon its passage this afternoon, one of the bill's sponsors and leading champions, Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI), stated:

"This legislation is one more step in the long civil rights struggle to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to reach their potential. For far too long, health insurance companies have used the stigma of mental illness and substance abuse as an excuse to deny coverage for those biological disorders. That ends today when this critical legislation outlaws the discrimination that is embedded in our laws and our policies."

Other bill sponsors and leading supporters include Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-MN) in the House of Representatives, as well as Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) in the Senate. Late Senator Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) was also a leading champion of this legislation.