NEWS RELEASE

September 23, 2008
PR-08/19
For additional information:
Jason Hammersla
202-289-6700


Council applauds mental health parity agreement

Commends cooperative, bipartisan approach to achieve Congressional passage

WASHINGTON, D.C. — "The mental health parity legislation, approved by the Senate today, follows more than a decade of contentious negotiations and will no doubt present some new challenges for employer sponsors of health plans," said American Benefits Council president James A. Klein upon passage by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives today. "Nevertheless, the Council is proud to have played an important role in the development of a compromise that everyone can support," Klein said. The Senate passed the measure as part of the Energy and Tax Extenders Act (H.R. 6049), while the House of Representatives approved the same language as a stand-alone measure, the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (H.R.6983)

"We applaud Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) who engaged the business community, insurers and mental health advocates to achieve balanced legislation. This bi-partisan collaborative effort that brought together diverse interest groups should be a model emulated by Congress next year as it tackles the much more difficult challenges of comprehensive health system reform," Klein said.

While supporting the original Senate legislation which passed unanimously in 2007, the Council had strongly opposed the earlier House of Representatives-passed measure, which treated coverage for mental and behavioral conditions differently than coverage for other medical and surgical services and would have imposed unacceptable burdens on employer sponsors of coverage. The compromise legislation approved by the Senate today resolves key employer concerns by protecting the federal framework governing employer health plans, allowing employers to continue determining what types of mental health are covered and ensuring that crucial medical management efforts are not eroded.

"The American Benefits Council believes strongly in the value of coverage for mental health and substance abuse conditions and our member companies provide some of the most generous and progressive benefit plans available anywhere in the country. In crafting final legislation it was crucial that Congress avoid micro-management of the voluntary, employer-provided health coverage system" Klein said.

To arrange an interview on this subject with Klein or other Council policy experts, please contact Jason Hammersla, Council director, communications, at jhammersla@abcstaff.org. You may reach him by phone during business hours at 202-289-6700 and after business hours at 202-253-5458.

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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 Councils member's 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.