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The Mental Health Parity Act

Effective January 1, 1998

Following is the complete text of the new Mental Health Parity Act recently passed by the United States Congress. This act appears here as a courtesy and act of good will towards our U.S. brothers and sisters from those of us in Australia who recognise that mental health rights are universal necessities.

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FILE s2031.is
S 2031 IS
104th CONGRESS
2d Session

To provide health plan protections for individuals with a mental illness.

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATE

August 2, 1996
Mr. DOMENICI (for himself, Mr. WELLSTONE, Mr. SIMPSON, Mr. CONRAD, Mr. WARNER, Mr. SPECTER, Mr. REID, Mr. DODD, Mr. GRASSLEY, Mrs. KASSEBAUM, Mr. KENNEDY, Mr. BURNS, Mr. HARKIN, and Mr.MOYNIHAN) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Labor and Human sources.

A BILL

To provide health plan protections for individuals with a mental illness. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the `Mental Health Parity Act of 1996'.

SEC. 2. PLAN PROTECTIONS FOR INDIVIDUALS WITH A MENTAL ILLNESS.

(a) PERMISSIBLE COVERAGE LIMITS UNDER A GROUP HEALTH PLAN-

SEC. 3. DEFINITIONS.

For a simplified version of the highlights you may wish to read this APA version titled: Public Policy Advocacy: The Domenici-Wellstone Mental Illness Parity Provision.



NAMI E-NEWS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 15, 1997
CONTACT: Mary Rappaport
703/312-7886
Valerie Rheinstein
703/516-7963

PIVOTAL VICTORY FOR AMERICANS WITH SEVERE MENTAL ILLNESSES

Mental Health Parity Law to Be Fully Enforced, Administration Sources Reveal

Arlington, VA -- The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) today lauded the Clinton Administration for standing behind a landmark law that ends at least some health insurance discrimination against millions of Americans with severe mental illnesses. The White House is expected to release a formal decision sometime next week.

Despite intense pressure from special interests to allow a legal loophole, the Administration has decided that employers must first comply with the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996 before seeking an exemption because of higher health insurance costs.

"This is a tremendous victory, an important first step in getting equal treatment for mental illness," said NAMI Executive Director Laurie Flynn. "The Administration move in favor of American families sends loud and clear message discrimination is wrong. We applaud the President for his courage in putting people first."

The parity law, which requires annual and lifetime benefits for mental illnesses to be equal to that offered for other disorders, allows employers to be exempted if their costs rise more than one percent as a result of complying with the law.

According to sources today, the Administration has ruled that employers must first comply with the law in 1998 and develop a cost history (retrospective data) before seeking an exemption. By contrast, some business groups had argued that firms be allowed to use the exemption based on estimates of higher costs (prospective data), thereby relieving them of the responsibility to ever comply.

"The days of being cast as second-class citizens from a health care system historically indifferent to their needs are over," said Flynn. "This modest anti-discrimination law eliminated the double standard held against millions of Americans suffering from brain disorders and instead gives them renewed hope for reestablishing full and productive lives."

The Administration is also expected to require disclosure of the names of firms seeking exemption, a hotly debated issue opposed by many business groups.

While special interests were pressuring the White House to draft regulations that would weaken the law, researchers at the Rand Corporation and the University of California at Los Angeles found that mental health benefits would not add significantly to insurers costs. The Rand study concluded that parity will increase costs by only about $1 per employee each year. Additionally, a survey conducted for NAMI by William M. Mercer, Inc., indicated little resistance by employers to comply with the new law, with 85 percent of businesses familiar with the law either in compliance or planning to make changes to comply with the new by the end of the year.

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