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Washington Labor & Employment Wire » Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (H.R.1424)

Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (H.R.1424)

Core Provisions: This legislation would amend the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and the Public Health Service Act to prohibit group health plans from treating mental health or substance-related disorders differently than other health conditions in terms of treatment limitations, beneficiary financial requirements and out-of-network coverage. The bill specifies that plans must cover treatment for any mental health condition or substance-related disorder included in the most recent edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This amendment would not apply to group health plans of employers with fewer than 50 employees. Provisions from the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (H.R.493), which was passed by the House but not yet acted upon by the Senate, were added to H.R.1424 following passage in the House. The provisions added to this act would prohibit employers from discriminating against individuals on the basis of genetic information, limit genetic testing and information collection by insurers, and prohibit insurers from using genetic information to determine eligibility, premium rates or preexisting condition coverage exclusions.

Status: On March 9, 2007, the bill was introduced by Rep. Kennedy (D-RI). On March 5, 2008, the House passed H.R.1424 by a vote of 268 to 148. On March 5, 2008, the White House released a statement expressing concerns about H.R.1424 and urging Congress to pass S.558 instead. The White House opposes H.R.1424’s preemption provisions and its application to physician-owned hospitals, and is concerned the legislation would “further distort the market for prescription drugs, and discourage innovation in the drug development process.” The White House also expressed concern about H.R.1424’s provisions from the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, but concluded that “the Administration looks forward to working with Congress to address these concerns and pass Mental Health Parity and Genetic Nondiscrimination legislation this year.”