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Another House Subcommittee Approves Mental Health Parity Bill, Breast Cancer Stamp Bill

Mental Health Parity

On October 10, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health approved, by voice vote, the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007 (H.R. 1424), after adopting, also by voice vote, a substitute amendment by Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ). Among other provisions, the substitute amendment would allow health insurers to apply for a one-year exemption to the parity requirements set forth in the bill if such requirements would increase costs by more than two percent in the first year after enactment or one percent in subsequent years. The amendment also would define mental health disorders based on the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, rather than the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

The House Ways and Means Committee approved the bill on September 26 (see The Source, 9/28/07). The House Education and Labor Committee approved the bill on July 18 (see The Source, 7/20/07). The Senate approved its version (S. 558) of the bill on September 18 (see The Source, 9/21/07).

During consideration of the bill, the subcommittee defeated the following amendments:

  • an amendment by Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) that would have allowed health insurers to define mental health- or substance abuse-related disorders and would have eliminated the requirement that health plans provide out-of-network coverage for mental health benefits if they also provide such benefits for medical and surgical conditions, 9-19;
  • an amendment by Ranking Member Nathan Deal (R-GA) that would have allowed health insurers to apply for a permanent exemption from the mental health and substance abuse parity requirements in the bill if such requirements increase costs by more than two percent in the first year after enactment or one percent in subsequent years, by voice vote; and
  • a second amendment by Rep. Deal that would have allowed health insurers to continue to offer plans without mental health parity and substance abuse parity as long as some offered plans that did meet the parity requirements, by voice vote.Breast Cancer Stamp

    The same day, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health approved, by voice vote, a bill (H.R. 1236) that would allow the U.S. Postal Service to continue issuing a special stamp to raise money for breast cancer research, after adopting, also by voice vote, a substitute amendment by Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ). The substitute amendment would allow the U.S. Postal Service to continue issuing the stamp until 2011; the original bill would have permanently authorized the postal stamp.

    The current authorization (P.L. 109-100) is set to expire on December 31, 2007. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved the bill on September 20 (see The Source, 9/21/07). On August 1, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved a similar measure that would extend the sale of the postage stamps for two years (see The Source, 8/3/07).

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