NEWS RELEASE

July 17, 2007
PR-07/20
For additional information:
Jason Hammersla
202-289-6700


Council urges Education and Labor Committee to pass Kline mental health parity substitute

Senate language considers needs of both health plan sponsors and participants

WASHINGTON, D.C. — "When the members of the House of Representatives Education and Labor Committee consider mental health parity legislation this week, we hope that they are mindful of the unintended consequences that the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act (H.R. 1424) could have on employer-sponsored health plans," said Council President James A. Klein. The Council sent a letter to the House of Representatives Education and Labor Committee on July 16, urging members to approve a substitute amendment to H.R. 1424. "We urge the Committee to support the alternative language to be proposed by Representative John Kline."

Rep. Kline (R-MN), the ranking minority member of the Education and Labor Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions, is expected to offer an amendment during the markup that would use the Senate's Mental Health Parity Act (S. 558) as a substitute for H.R. 1424.

"Representative Kline's amendment, like the Senate bill on which it is based, was developed with the cooperation and support of mental health parity proponents as well as organizations representing employers and insurers," Klein said. Unlike the House bill under consideration, the substitute amendment allows employers the flexibility to design plans; makes clear that medical management of these important benefits may not be prohibited; and ensures uniformity between federal and state parity requirements while maintaining states' current authority to regulate insurance.

"The Council was privileged to work with the original Senate sponsors of this legislation. We urge adoption of this amendment, which would not only help address many varied concerns regarding mental health coverage, but also represents a balanced, bipartisan, collaborative approach to America's health care challenges," Klein said.

The Council's letter is available here. 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 jhammersla@abcstaff.org 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.