Congress passes mental health parity measure

After years of skirmishing and compromise, Congress has finally passed a mental health parity bill. The bill, as approved by both houses, would prohibit employers offering mental health coverage from charging higher co-pays for such services than other medical treatments. The bill exempts businesses with less than 50 employees, a key compromise that helped to win the support from business leaders and the Bush administration.

The mental health bill has been championed by Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), who has fought substance abuse, and co-sponsored by Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-MN). It's also been backed by Patrick Kennedy's father, Sen. Ted. Kennedy, though the younger Kennedy had pushed for a more liberal version of the measure.

Now, before the measure can be finalized, legislators must resolve how to pay for the cost of the bill, which would result in the government's giving up about $3.4 billion in tax revenue over 10 years. Given this issue, it's not clear whether Congress can reach a final agreement on the bill before it recesses this week.

To learn more about the bill:
- read this Washington Post piece

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