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House Passes Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act

March 5, 2008

The House has just passed H.R. 1424, the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act by a vote of 268-148. This bipartisan legislation will end discrimination against patients seeking treatment for mental illnesses by prohibiting insurers and group health plans from imposing treatment or financial limitations when they offer mental health benefits that are more restrictive from those applied to medical and surgical services.

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Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “This is an issue of national significance. Every year, mental illness results in 1.3 billion lost days of work or school. That adds up to more lost productivity for mental illness than arthritis, stroke, heart attack and cancer combined. Yet bipartisan and independent research shows that there is no significant cost to insuring mental illness like any other medical disease. This legislation will be especially relevant for our returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who later become employed in the private sector. This will be potentially lifesaving for those brave men and women who served in the National Guard and Reserves, but who don't receive VA care for their entire lives.”
Rep. Jim Langevin (RI-02): “Mr. Speaker, I know what it’s like to live every day with a disability and how important it is to have the care and the resources that allow me to live a normal life. See, you can see my disability. It’s obvious. But with a wheelchair, with adaptive equipment, it really levels the playing field. With other supports, I can live a fulfilling and normal life. But Mr. Speaker, there are millions of people across this country who live with a silent disability, a hidden disability. Struggling day in and day out with substance abuse, mental illness, chemical imbalance, other mental illness challenges and they don’t have the support that they need. And they struggle day in and day out. They don’t have the support they need because they don’t have mental health parity.”
Rep. Rob Andrews (NJ-01): “This is the right time, for the right bill. Its cost is minimal. Its benefit is great. Its support is bipartisan, and its time for passage is now.”
Rep. Kathy Castor (FL-11): “You see, HMOs and many health insurance companies have been more focused on their bottom lines than on the health of our families. Mental health is just as critical to our lives and well being as any physical ailment or disease, and yet health insurers continue to treat mental illness differently from physical illness.”