October 10, 2007
For additional information:
Jason Hammersla

Council urges House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee to consider Senate-passed mental health parity language

S. 558 has support of business groups, insurers, mental health advocates

WASHINGTON, D.C. — "Only the Senate-passed mental health parity legislation has the support of employers and insurers as well as mental health advocates," said American Benefits Council President James A. Klein before the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee mark-up of the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act (H.R. 1424). "We urge the subcommittee to reject H.R. 1424, which undermines employer-sponsored health coverage, and instead consider the balanced, workable approach embodied by the Senate's Mental Health Parity Act (S. 558)."

S. 558, sponsored by Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Mike Enzi (R-WY), was passed unanimously by the Senate on September 18, 2007. S. 558 achieves the goal of full parity while allowing 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 Senate bill is the product of extensive discussions and thoughtful compromise with all of the important stakeholders, including the American Benefits Council. We are privileged to have worked with the bill's sponsors to provide our perspective during this bipartisan, collaborative process," Klein said, echoing his testimony before the subcommittee on June 15, 2007.

"The Council and its members believe that treatment of mental and addiction disorders is vital to a healthy and productive workforce," Klein said. "The Senate language will help to provide care to those in need, but still leave in place the tools employers need to design and manage all of the important health benefits available to employees and their families."

This morning, the Council signed on as part of a joint letter to the subcommittee from business groups supporting the more balanced Senate legislation. To arrange an interview with Klein or Paul Dennett, Council vice president, health policy, please contact Jason Hammersla, Council director of communications, at or by phone at (202) 289-6700.

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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. .