Congressman Bill Pascrell

Representing the 9th District of NEW JERSEY

Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007

Mar 5, 2008
Floor Speech



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   Mr. PASCRELL. Mr. Speaker, this day has been many years in the making. This mental health parity will be a signature jewel in the crown of the 110th Congress. This legislation reflects our deepest values as Americans.

   I want to thank Congressman Kennedy and Congressman Ramstad for your long labors in making real mental health parity a reality. Families all over America will be forever indebted to you.

   I have long been a supporter of affordable, accessible, quality health care for every American for both physical and mental illnesses. As a member of the Jersey legislature, I worked for parity legislation that finally came to fruition in 1999. Like the 1996 Federal parity law, the coverage was not complete. Advocates in Jersey continue the fight to ensure real and complete coverage parity.

   Today, at long last, this House will take one step closer to making that a reality by passing H.R. 1424, the Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act. Thank you, both of you.

   For the first time, this legislation will eliminate inequitable treatment limits and end the imposition of financial requirements on mental health benefits which are not similarly imposed on comparable physical ailments. These two policies are considered to be essential steps toward ending coverage discrimination against individuals with mental illness.

   To be clear, this legislation does not mandate insurers or group health plans to provide any mental health coverage at all. This legislation will ensure coverage of the same mental illnesses and addiction disorders available to Members of Congress and 8.5 million other Federal employees. Isn't that a breakthrough.

   While opponents of this insist that parity will bankrupt the health care system, research has shown that there's no significant cost increase whatsoever. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated a minuscule impact on premiums for the mental health parity bill, just two-tenths of 1 percent.

   This must be passed, both sides of the aisle, and America will benefit.