Friday, September 12, 2008

Senate Finance Committee members push for compromise on mental health parity legislation


The Senate Finance Committee has begun discussing potential funding offsets for a compromise on mental health parity legislation passed by the House and Senate earlier in the 110th Congress, CongressDaily reports.

Lawmakers reached an agreement in July that would combine the House and Senate bills by removing a House mandate on coverage of specific mental health conditions in favor of one that would require that mental health benefits be equal to physical health benefits, although no funding mechanism was included in the agreement.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.), when asked about the bill's chances of passing this month, said, "The funnel is so small, there's so little time and there's so much we have to pass here," adding, "I'll hope." Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), who is expected to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to discuss the compromise, said the bill must receive final approval this month before attentions shift to the November elections. Kennedy said it is a "good bipartisan, bicameral compromise bill" and has secured "a sign-off from both business and consumer groups," adding, "[I]t's just hard to think that you're going to be able to get that kind of sign-off and political compromise back again without a lot of footwork." Kennedy also said there is a chance that business groups would withdraw their support for the parity legislation if it has to start from scratch next year.

Norman DeLisle, MDRC
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