Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Big Victory!

Big Victory! President Signs Mental Health Parity

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Congratulations to NASW members who have long advocated passage of mental health and addiction services parity legislation. Just this afternoon the House passed the final mental health parity bill by a strong vote margin (263-171) and the President has already signed the bill into law.

The Senate voted earlier this week to add parity language (the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008) to the much larger Wall Street rescue, tax and disaster relief bill (H.R. 1424). The House subsequently agreed to the Senate’s version of the bill this afternoon. The new federal law will provide mental health and addiction services parity for about 113 million Americans who work for employers with 50 employees or more.

NASW members and thousands of other mental health advocates have battled for years to enact federal mental health parity legislation for private insurance coverage. Throughout this year, advocates have made more progress toward enactment than at anytime since our efforts began. Over the past two weeks, Senate and House leaders struggled to bring mental parity to the floor before Congress adjourns for the elections. Our last major problem was a congressional rule requiring a "pay-for" to offset the impact of implementing parity on federal revenues (estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to cost $3.8 billion over 10 years).

Congressional budget rules require legislation with a fiscal impact to include either increases in revenues or decreases in spending to remain budget neutral. The Senate earlier this week added our parity bill to the huge Wall Street bailout bill as an enticement to gain House approval for the highly controversial package. This final strategy has now proven successful, ensuring the parity bill would be signed into law quickly by the President.

NASW greatly appreciate social workers’ continued commitment to support passage of this landmark legislation. At this time we don’t have a detailed analysis of the law, but more information will be forthcoming. Members interested in seeing the full text of the soono be signed federal mental health parity law may view it beginning on page 310 of this bill:

H.R. 1424 Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008
Congratulations to all NASW advocates, it was a hard fought and truly critical victory!

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