Today's Article
The Senate bill,
sponsored by Pete
Domenici (R-NM),
greatly benefits
Americans suffering
from mental illness.
The American Spark
Senators Pass Mental Health Assistance Bill

By Cliff Montgomery - Oct. 19th, 2007

The House on Wednesday received for consideration a Senate bill which, if made law, would finally ensure
that Americans suffering from mental illness receive the same level of treatment as those suffering from
physical problems.

This bold legislation was sponsored by Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), and was co-sponsored by 57 of
Domenici's fellow senators. They deserve the thanks of Americans everywhere.

Below we offer the Congressional Research Service summary of the Senate bill:

"Mental Health Parity Act of 2007 - (Sec. 2) Amends the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)
and the Public Health Service Act to require a group health plan that provides both medical and surgical
benefits and mental health benefits to ensure that:

  • (1) the financial requirements applicable to such mental health benefits are no more restrictive than
    those of substantially all medical and surgical benefits covered by the plan, including deductibles and co-
    payments; and

  • (2) the treatment limitations applicable to such mental health benefits are no more restrictive than those
    applied to substantially all medical and surgical benefits covered by the plan, including limits on the
    frequency of treatments or similar limits on the scope or duration of treatment.

"Prohibits the plan from establishing separate cost sharing requirements that are applicable only with respect
to mental health benefits.

"Requires that such a plan ensure that the requirements of this Act are applied to both in- and out-of-network
services, if offered, by comparing in-network medical and surgical benefits to in-network mental health benefits
and out-of network medical and surgical benefits to out-of-network mental health benefits.

"Excludes from the requirements of this Act any group health plan: (1) for an employer with not more than 50
employees; or (2) whose costs of compliance with this Act increase the total costs of coverage by more than a
specified percentage. Requires that determinations as to increases in actual costs under a plan be made by a
qualified actuary and be made available to the public.

"(Sec. 4) Supersedes any provision of state law that establishes, implements, or continues in effect any
standard or requirement that differs from the requirements of this Act, except for laws relating to the individual
insurance market or small employers.

"(Sec. 5) Requires the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Health and Human Services to designate an
individual within their departments as the group health plan ombudsman to serve as an initial point of contact
to permit individuals to obtain information and provide assistance concerning coverage of mental health
services under group health plans in accordance with this Act.

"Requires the Secretaries to provide for the conduct of random audits of group health plans to ensure
compliance with this Act.

"Requires the Comptroller General to study the effect of this Act on the cost of health insurance coverage,
access to such coverage, the quality of health care, and the impact on benefits and coverage for mental health
and substance abuse."

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