In a move lauded by advocates as a major step in the country’s understanding of mental health, the House and Senate approved bills yesterday requiring private insurers to provide mental health benefits equivalent to those for physical illness.
Currently, private insurers can limit mental health coverage to 30 doctor visits and 30 hospital days per year. The new law prohibits insurers from setting such limits if they don’t set limits for medical conditions like heart disease.
The house version of the bill was sponsored by Jim Ramstad (R-Minn), a recovering alcoholic, and Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), who has faced drug and alcohol problems.
The bill has bipartisan support in Congress. It is backed by the medical community, insurance companies, the private sector and the White House.
Still, it’s not clear the bill will become law. The House and Senate versions differ in their financing mechanisms. As well, the House version is a standalone bill, while the Senate rolled the legislation into a bill that includes $150 billion in tax cuts. Congress adjourns in a few days.
“We’ve come so…far,” noted Andrew Sperling, director of legislative affairs for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “We are in a…world of trouble if we don’t get this done (now).”