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May 2002
MENTAL HEALTH PARITY GAINS SUPPORT

A front-page article in the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday April 30, 2002 revealed that President Bush has voiced his support for legislation that would eliminate some disparities between insurance coverage of patients with mental and physical illnesses. The President did not delineate a clear plan but indicated his willingness to work with lawmakers on a measure that would mean more insurance coverage for the most serious mental illnesses. These include major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Bush has been unwilling to go the extra step and ask for unlimited coverage for all of the 277 conditions listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders. The President said, “ Health plans should not be allowed to apply unfair treatment limitations or financial requirements on mental health benefits”. Bush also announced the creation of a new presidential commission to recommend improvements in the nations mental health care. There is strong opposition from the American Association of Health Plans, a trade group representing more than 1,000 health maintenance organizations. California already has a mental health parity law as do 31 other states. Senator Pete Domenci (Republican, New Mexico) a conservative, and Senator Paul Wellstone (Democrat, Minnesota) a liberal, have joined together to lead the push for an insurance parity bill.


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