Statement on the • The Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act

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mr. pallone: i yield one minute to our distinguished majority leader, the gentleman from maryland, mr. hoyer. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from maryland is recognized. mr. hoyer: i thank the gentleman for yielding. and i'm pleased to follow my friend, mr. murphy, who just spoke. with whom i agree entirely. this will be a cost savings. i want to congratulate as well patrick kennedy and jim ramstad. one a democrat, one a republican. but this is not a partisan issue. this is not a republican or democratic issue. it is an issue of human beings. it's an issue of people that need help and have been denied it. people who are one of us, as mr. murphy so eloquently and correctly pointed out. i rise in strong pour -- support of this legislation. i strongly support this long overdue bipartisan legislation to end discrimination against patients seeking treatment for mental illness. mr. kennedy spoke of that discrimination. i want to commend congressman kennedy and my friend, congressman ramstad. congressman ramstad is going to be leaving us, but he has been one of the best members that has served in this body. who looks at issues with merits, not on partisanship. we all ought to do that. this legislation, paul wellstone mental health and addiction equity act which noes what you 274 co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle, under this bill, an insurer or group health plan must ensure that -- insure that any financial requirements such as out of pocket expenses applied to mental health and addiction treatments are no more restrictive or costly than the financial requirements implied -- applied to comparable medical and surgical benefits that the plan confers. why does it do that? it does it because in america we want healthy people. not physically healthy people and mentally healthy people, but people who are physically and mentally healthy. because obviously there is an extraordinary relationship between the two. under this bill we will accomplish that end. it also requires equity and treatment limits. this means that the treatment limits such as a frequency of treatment, number of visits and days of coverage, applied to mental health and addiction benefits are no more restrictive than the treatment limits applied to comparable medical and surgical benefits. why? again, because we want to affect the health of the individuals we are serving. it's important to note that this bill only applies to insurers and group health plans that provide mental health benefits. that is, it does not require plans that do not currently offer mental health benefits to do so. it simply says if you provide mental health benefits, do so equityably and fairly and equally. that's why patrick kennedy referred to this as a civil rights bill. it is a civil rights bill. it also exempts businesses with 50 or fewer employees and businesses that experience an overall premium increase of 2% or more in the first year and 1% in subsequent years. we believe that perhaps will not happen. but it provides for it. research has shown that there has been no significant cost increase attributeble to the parity requirement in the federal employee health benefit program which has made parity coverage for mental health care available to more than 8 1/2 million federal employees for eight years. so we've had experience at this. this is not a radical departure. this is, however, the provision of equal treatment. furthermore, this bill's enforcement mechanisms are real, preventing the i.r.s. to enforce and levee fines and on plans from disaplowing health care costs as an expense. the two offsets in this bill were included in the children's protection act which passed the house last august. the first increases the rebate or discount that drug companies are required to provide for ...