(This is not an official policy of the National office of CHADD, but we thought you would be interested in at least this perspective on a legislative issue that may affect you. – Ed.)
Grassroots Mobilization Needed to Pass Bill!
Despite the broad support the Senator Paul Wellstone Mental Health Equitable Treatment Act enjoys in Congress, momentum on the legislation has slowed in both chambers. But while committee chairmen in the Senate and House have taken no action to move the Wellstone bill, it is not too late for Congress to take up and pass mental health parity legislation, and the bill’s lead sponsors and advocates, including NMHA, continue to press for action.
NMHA is also working with Senator Wellstone’s son David and Wellstone Action, the foundation he and his brother established. As we near the anniversary of the October 25, 2002, plane crash that took the lives of Paul and Sheila Wellstone, we are jointly calling on people across the country to mount a grassroots campaign to achieve the simple goal set by the late senator and Pete Domenici: to end discrimination in health insurance against people with mental illness. As David Wellstone has told us, “There could be no more fitting memorial to my mother and father than the passage of legislation that would end discrimination against those with mental illness.”
In the Senate, the Wellstone Act, S. 486, introduced by Sens. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., has 67 cosponsors. The companion House bill, H.R. 953, introduced by Reps. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., and Jim Ramstad, R-Minn., has 244 supporters (including 42 Republicans). More than 270 national organizations support the legislation. With the broad support already in place, a national grassroots mobilization effort can awaken leaders to the imperatives of passing this critical legislation.
- Call the toll-free Parity Hotline, 1-866-PARITY4 (1-866-727-4894), to contact your senators and representative to urge passage of mental health parity legislation before Congress adjourns. The Parity Hotline reaches the Capitol Switchboard, which can connect callers to their Members of Congress. Alternatively, contact one of the state offices of your senators and a district office of your representative.
- FAX letters urging passage of parity legislation to your senators and representative. See the sample letter below.
As Congress approaches the end of this session, legislators are focused primarily on passing appropriations bills and on a handful of others that the Bush Administration and the Senate and House majority leadership consider top priorities. Although the issue of mental health parity is not now among those priorities, with sufficient public outcry it can be. Legislators must hear from their constituents at this critical moment, especially those who may have special influence on this issue. That is why it is particularly important that large numbers of constituents of the following members call AND write to:
In the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.; and Senator Judd Gregg, R-N.H.
In the House of Representatives, Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.; Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas; and Reps. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; Billy Tauzin, R-La.; John Boehner, R-Ohio; Bill Thomas, R-Calif.; Mike Bilirakis, R-Fla.; Sam Johnson, R-Texas; and Nancy Johnson, R-Conn.; and the following physician members, Ernie Fletcher, R-Ky.; Dave Weldon, R-Fla.; and Michael Burgess; R-Texas.
Message [ask for, and make the following points with the “Health Legislative Assistant for the member of Congress]:
“I am calling to urge that Representative [or Senator] __________ make passage of mental health parity legislation (S. 486 in the Senate and H.R. 953 in the House) a top priority before Congress adjourns this year.
“Every day families with “good health coverage” discover that loved ones who have mental illnesses can’t get needed care because their insurance sets strict limits on mental health treatment. This bill will end that discrimination.
“Insurance barriers to needed mental health treatment do enormous harm to families…and to our economy. Mental illness is the second leading cause of disability and premature death in our country. But these restrictive insurance practices – which apply only to mental disorders – cause illnesses to go untreated and worsen. Tragically, this leads to unemployment, homelessness, and even suicide. Untreated mental illness also costs our economy about $80 billion per year.
“Mental health parity legislation is a fair and affordable solution that has broad bipartisan support. It will save lives and families.
“Congress must not let another year go by without passing the Paul Wellstone Mental Health Equitable Treatment Act.”
[Sample letter on parity:]
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Representative ________:
I am writing to urge Congress to take up and pass now the Senator Paul Wellstone Mental Health Equitable Treatment Act, legislation to end blatant and widespread discrimination against people with mental illness.
Mental illness is the second leading cause of disability and premature mortality in the United States. Yet every day families with “good health coverage” discover that their loved ones who have mental illnesses cannot get needed care because their insurance sets strict limits on mental health treatment – like ending further coverage after a limited number of treatment sessions – but imposes no such limits on treating any other illness.
These practices are not only unfair, they’re irrational. Mental illnesses are reliably diagnosed and for virtually every mental disorder, there is a range of treatments and services that have been shown to be effective.
Health insurers who erect these barriers to medically necessary mental health treatment inflict enormous harm on American families…and on our economy. These discriminatory practices – which are applied only to mental disorders – cause illnesses to go untreated and worsen. Tragically, this lack of care leads all too often to unemployment, broken homes, school failure, and even suicide. Untreated mental illness also costs our economy about $80 billion each year — in lost productivity, sick leave, and unemployment.
American families need a solution NOW. The solution is bipartisan legislation that would require simple parity between mental health benefits and the benefits provided to treat any other illness or injury. This simple, fair step will save lives and families.
As studies have shown, mental health parity legislation will not lead to a significant increase in insurance premiums or in the number of uninsured Americans. But the costs of NOT enacting parity are high, and will fall most heavily on taxpayer-funded public programs, our economy, and the well-being of American families and their communities.
Please make passage of a strong mental health parity bill a top priority before Congress adjourns this year.