Senators Propose Protections for Americans with Mental Health Needs
Long-sought Measure Would End Civil Rights Discrimination
Contact: Heather Cobb, (703) 797-2588
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (February 12, 2006) - Senate leaders today introduced legislation that holds the promise of ending insurance discrimination against people who participate in employer-sponsored health care plans and need help for a mental health or substance abuse problem. Mental Health America applauds the leadership of Senators Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass) and Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.) in crafting this long-sought measure to bring fundamental insurance protections to the nearly 60 percent of Americans who rely on employer-sponsored coverage.
"As it stands now, most private health care plans set arbitrary and inequitable limits on behavioral health care - millions are denied care each year," said David L. Shern, Ph.D., president and CEO of Mental Health America. "Limiting access to needed health care based solely on society's characterization of an illness raises a profound civil rights issue. The legislation introduced today would thrust our nation forward in both improving access to care and realizing a broader principle - namely that our nation must address mental illness with the same urgency and priority attached to other chronic illnesses."
The Mental Health Parity Act of 2007 would outlaw practices that have for too long caused needless suffering to the individual, caused reduced productivity in the workplace, increased overall health care costs and contributed to higher costs in the public health care system. The legislation also maintains the enforceability of key insurance protections established by states across the country. State parity laws vary widely from state to state (for a map of state laws, visit www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/parity/states).
The vast majority of Americans (89%) - including Democrats, Republicans, managers and employees alike - want to end insurance discrimination against people with mental health needs, according to a recent survey by Mental Health America. "This is not a political issue," said Shern. "This is an issue of fairness, and we applaud the strong bipartisan support it is receiving."
Mental Health America looks forward to working with the Senate - and the House of Representatives - to enact legislation that achieves insurance equity and expands the civil rights of people with mental health and substance abuse needs.
For more information and recent public opinion survey findings related to mental health insurance coverage, go to www.mentalhealthamerica.net.
Mental Health America is the country's leading nonprofit dedicated to helping ALL people live mentally healthier lives. With our more than 320 affiliates nationwide, we represent a growing movement of Americans who promote mental wellness for the health and well-being of the nation - everyday and in times of crisis.