September 26, 2007
For additional information:
Jason Hammersla

Council urges Ways and Means Committee to pass Senate mental health parity language

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

WASHINGTON, D.C. — "The House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee has to make an important choice today," said American Council President James A. Klein in advance of the committee's mark-up of the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act (H.R. 1424).

"The committee can approve the bill under consideration, which reaches far beyond mental health parity and undermines employer-sponsored health coverage," Klein said, "or they can support the language already approved by the Senate, which establishes a strong mental health parity law developed with the cooperation of employers, insurers and mental health advocates."

The Senate's Mental Health Parity Act (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. 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 and fully insured health plans.

"We applaud the three Senate sponsors for their bipartisan, collaborative approach," Klein said. "S. 558 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 been able to share our perspective and principles during this process."

The Senate language is expected to be introduced during the markup as an amendment in the nature of a substitute.

"We urge the committee to adopt the Senate legislation as a substitute, so a bill can be enacted quickly," Klein said. "The Senate language will help to provide mental health and addiction treatment to those in need, but still leave in place the tools employers need to design and manage the benefits available to their employers."

To arrange an interview with Paul Dennett, Council vice president, health policy, or Klein, who previously testified on this issue before the House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Health, 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.