Friday, August 1, 2008

Senate Democrats Unable to End Filibuster on ERISA Amendments Regarding Mental Health Parity

Falling nine votes short of the 60 needed
to overcome a Republican-backed filibuster
on July 30, the Senate was
unable to advance a House and Senate compromise over mental health
parity language which was attached to pending energy and tax
legislation (S. 3335).

The mental health parity provisions would amend ERISA to require
group health plans to administer treatment limitations, beneficiary
financial requirements and out-of-network coverage so that mental
health benefits are no more restrictive than “substantially all medical
and surgical benefits.” The legislation would exempt group health plans
of employers with fewer than 50 employees.

Senate Democrats, with a handful of Republicans, mustered only 51
votes for cloture. Previous stand-alone mental health parity
legislation has passed both the House and Senate, with the House
approving mental health parity legislation (H.R. 1424) on March 5 by a vote of 268-148, and the Senate approving similar but distinct legislation (S. 558) by unanimous consent in September 2007.

Congress will likely continue consideration of the mental health
parity compromise legislation upon return from its August recess.

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