Fair Mental Health Care

Featured photo for 'Fair Mental Health Care'

February 22, 2010 – 12:13am

On October 3, 2008, President George W. Bush signed a new law that ended health insurance discrimination against individuals with mental health and substance-use disorders. 

This “parity” law requires that co-pays, deductibles, and annual and lifetime caps on addiction and mental health benefits to be the same as those on medical and surgical benefits. 

Much credit for making this important piece of legislation reality goes to the 300 organizations of the Parity Now Coalition, co-chaired by Carol McDaid of Capitol Decisions Inc., the principal lobbyist behind passage of the law.

“This is a civil-rights issue,” the late-Sen. Edward Kennedy said at the time. “With passage of this bill, fundamental justice arrives for millions of our fellow Americans who deal with mental illness.”

Using all the tools of government relations, from grassroots organizing, to use of the Internet and media, to direct advocacy with Members of Congress and the Administration, CDI and Ms. McDaid helped build a powerful coalition, direct its energies in the most productive ways, and after much effort, achieve what all now recognize as a breakthrough in health care.

The Parity NOW Coalition has become the model for successfully advocating for inclusion of addiction and mental health benefits in health-care reform legislation.

“Untreated mental illness results in 1.3 billion lost days of work or school in our country every year. Yet bipartisan and independent research shows there is no significant cost to insuring mental illness like any other medical disease,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “With this legislation, we are making an investment in the strength and productivity of our nation.”