Competing mental health parity bills duke it out

Two mental health parity bills, each designed to put psych treatment on the same footing as traditional medical care, are competing for mindshare on Capitol Hill. The two are each backed by a Kennedy, one by senior Democratic Senator Edward M. Kennedy (MA), and the other by his son, Democratic Representative Patrick J. Kennedy (RI). Sen. Kennedy has admitted that his bill is far more conservative, offering broader, less-specific requirements which have helped him win points with business and insurance lobbies in an effort to get something passed. Rep. Kennedy, meanwhile, who is himself being treated for addiction and depression, is pushing to strengthen the terms of his bill. As it stands Rep. Kennedy's bill, which upsets the same business groups his father has placated, would require that a health plan that provides mental health benefits offer the same coverage level as the most-popular federal health plan. Despite taking a more aggressive stance, Rep. Kennedy's bill appears to have decent odds in the House, with more than 60 percent of all House members expressing support. President Bush, for his part, has said he would back a mental health parity measure, but hasn't endorsed a specific bill.

To learn more about the two measures:
- read this New York Times article