Bush Backs Mental Insurance Parity

April 29, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - President Bush has urged Congress to force health insurers to provide the same level of coverage for mentally ill Americans as they do for those with physical diseases.

Bush did not endorse a specific bill, but he promised to work with Senator Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico) who was at his side. Domenici, whose daughter suffers from mental illness, has long championed federally enforced mental health parity.

“Mental disability is not a scandal,” Bush said at the University of New Mexico, according to a Reuters news report. “[Mentally ill Americans] deserve a health care system that treats their illness with the same urgency as a physical illness.”

Republicans Oppose Bills

Opposing mental health parity efforts, in addition to US House of Representatives Republican leaders, are business groups who fear such initiatives would dramatically raise their insurance costs.

The White House has warned lawmakers that any health insurance bill coming over from Capitol Hill must prevent health plans from applying less generous treatment or financial limitations to mental health benefits while not markedly raising employer costs.

Bush also announced the formation of a 15-member federal commission to develop recommendations on improving the nation’s mental health care system. The panel will report in a year.

The far-reaching bill offered by Domenici and Senator Paul Wellstone, (D-Minnesota), would require federally mandated parity. The Senate is expected to vote on it within the next few weeks.

Domenici wants to cover all mental illnesses listed in the standard diagnostic manual used by social workers and other mental health professionals.