House Panel Approves Mental Health Parity Bill

July 18, 2007 ( - The House Education and Labor Committee on Wednesday approved legislation that would require group health care plans to provide the same cost-sharing provisions for mental health care services as they do for other medical conditions, Business Insurance reports.

While the House measure is similar to a Senate mandate in that regard, approval of the measure is sure to spark debate between the two due to some differences in the bills. The House bill hands more power to the states to set stronger standards governing cost sharing and treatment parity for mental health care services, while the Senate bill preempts state control.

In addition, the House bill requires the employer to provide coverage for the same range of mental disorders and illnesses which are covered by federal health care plans available to members of Congress, where the Senate bill gives employers discretion over what disorders to cover (See U.S. House Mental Health Parity Bill Differs from Senate Bill ).

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved the Senate’s mandate in February (See Senate Committee Approves Mental Health Parity Bill ). Both bills exempt companies that could prove compliance would increase health care costs by more than 2% during the first year the bill goes into effect or more than 1% in subsequent years.

The Education and Labor Committee approved the House measure after rejecting a substitute bill with similar provisions as the Senate mandate, Business Insurance said. Employer groups, including the American Benefits Council and the National Retail Federation, support the Senate bill, and are opposed to the House bill.