Mental Health Parity Bill Named for Wellstone

March 3, 2003 ( - Sponsors of new legislation to mandate mental health insurance coverage be on par with treatment for physical conditions have named the bill after the late Senator Paul Wellstone who long championed the cause.

Representative Jim Ramstad (R-Minnesota) is sponsoring a House version while Senators Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) and Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico) will sponsor a corresponding Senate bill, according to a Minneapolis Star-Tribune story. “Passing this mental health parity bill is not only the right thing to do, it’s also the cost-effective thing to do,” Ramstad said.

According to Domenici, the legislation has the backing of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R- Tennessee) and should reach the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee next week. The new bill would replace a 1996 mental health parity law, which is now set to sunset on December 31, 2003.

The legislation applies to employers with 50 or more workers. It prohibits them from imposing higher out-of-pocket expenses on patients seeking mental health care than if they sought treatment for physical ailments. It doesn’t require employers to provide mental health coverage.

Wellstone was killed in October 2002 when his small chartered plane crashed near an airport runway in northeast Minnesota.