NEWS RELEASE

October 16, 2007
PR-07/31
For additional information:
Jason Hammersla
202-253-5458


Council reiterates support for Senate-passed compromise mental health parity legislation

House bill would undermine existing employer-sponsored benefits

WASHINGTON, D.C. — "America's employers want to provide the best medical care for their employees, including treatment for mental health and addiction disorders. The Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act (H.R. 1424) only hinders this effort, by undermining the fundamental framework of employer-sponsored health coverage," said American Benefits Council President James A. Klein prior to the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee mark-up of H.R. 1424 today.

"We urge the committee to reject H.R. 1424 and instead consider the Senate-passed Mental Health Parity Act (S. 558), a balanced measure developed with the support of employers and insurers as well as mental health advocates," Klein said. "We are privileged to have worked with Senate sponsors Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) to arrive at a measure that truly achieves mental health parity."

S. 558 allows employers the flexibility to design their benefit plans, makes clear that medical management of these important benefits may not be prohibited and maintains states' current authority to regulate insurance. In contrast, H.R. 1424 contains mandates that go far beyond a mental health parity requirement and could open the door for broad and inconsistent state law remedies applicable to participants in fully insured health plans.

"The Council and its members believe that treatment of mental and addiction disorders is vital to a healthy and productive workforce," Klein said, echoing his testimony before the Committee's Health Subcommittee on June 15, 2007. "Only the Senate measure takes the correct approach to creating parity for mental health treatment while preserving the generous health benefits that employees already enjoy."

To arrange an interview with Klein or Paul Dennett, Council vice president, health policy, please contact Jason Hammersla, Council director of communications, at jhammersla@abcstaff.org or by phone at (202) 253-5458.

# # #

The American Benefits Council is the national trade association for companies concerned about federal legislation and regulations affecting all aspects of the employee benefits system. The Council's members represent the entire spectrum of the private employee benefits community and either sponsor directly or administer retirement and health plans covering more than 100 million Americans. .