U.S. House Mental Health Parity Bill Differs from Senate Bill

March 8, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The mental health care benefits parity legislation introduced in the U.S. House on Wednesday would require group health plans to treat cost-sharing requirements for mental health the same as for other medical conditions, but strays from the U.S. Senate version passed last month.

According to Business Insurance, the House proposal is similar to the one passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in February (See Senate Committee Approves Mental Health Parity Bill ) in that it exempts small employers and those companies whose costs would rise more than 2% during the first plan year as a result of the requirement.

The two differences between the House and Senate version of the bill are:

  • The House version hands more power to the states to set stronger standards governing cost sharing and treatment parity for mental health care services, rather than preempting state control of the issue like the Senate bill calls for.
  • 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.

The House measure was introduced by Representatives Patrick Kennedy, (D-Rhode Island), and Jim Ramstad, (R-Minnesota). The chief sponsors of the Senate bill have warned that their backing depends on no significant changes being made to the legislation, according to Business Insurance.