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Rep. Kind Votes to Advance Legislation to Provide Equal Coverage for Mental Health Conditions

March 5, 2008
Press Release

Washington, D.C. ––U.S. Rep. Kind (D-WI) late yesterday voted with a majority of the House to advance H.R. 1424, The Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act, which would end discrimination of patients seeking coverage for treatment of mental health conditions, estimated to affect more than 57 million Americans. Rep. Kind, a member of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, was a cosponsor and long-time supporter of this legislation.

“Issues of mental health are as important as those of physical health and should be treated that way,” Rep. Kind said. “Right now, however, many health care plans do not offer equal coverage for mental health conditions as they do physical conditions. Proactive treatment of these disorders is not only the right thing to do – it will save money in the long run. Mental health conditions are the leading cause of disability in this country; for instance depression has serious effects on workers’ productivity and can complicate already harmful illnesses, increasing health care costs.”

While the bill does not mandate mental health benefits, it requires that insurers or group health plans who do provide them to have the same financial and treatment requirements as for medical benefits. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this should not have a significant impact, if any, on the cost of insurance premiums.

Despite the high number of Americans suffering from some sort of mental health disorder (57 million ) or chemical addiction (26 million), early prevention and intervention have not been made a priority and are decades behind other medical conditions. As a result, it is estimated that untreated mental illness cost U.S. businesses and the American economy over $150 billion last year, and untreated addiction cost our economy more than $400 billion.

“Mental health conditions affect roughly 20 percent of the U.S. population, but only one in three receives any treatment,” Rep. Kind said. “Denying someone coverage for a mental health disorder can have tragic consequences. This legislation will ensure that patients are given the coverage they deserve and help reduce the stigma so that people will seek help in the first place. The bill has been a long-time coming, and I urge the House and Senate leadership to reconcile differences quickly so it can go to the President.”