Letter Opposing H.R. 1424, the "Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007"
March 4, 2008
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world's largest business federation, representing more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region, strongly urges you to oppose H.R. 1424, the "Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007," which prevents employer discretion in designating mental health facilities and conditions for coverage.
While the Senate's corresponding bill, S. 558, the "Mental Health Parity Act," is a careful compromise between the business, insurance, and mental health communities, H.R. 1424 falls short. Markups in the three House Committees of jurisdiction made the bill more flawed as H.R. 1424, in its current form, may cause employers to stop offering mental health benefits to employees.
H.R. 1424 does not protect the use of important medical management tools that allow employers and plans to appropriately manage coverage for mental health conditions and substance-related disorders. The bill also mandates that if a plan provides any mental health or substance-related disorder benefits, it must cover all conditions listed in the DSM-IV manual. Additionally, the bill mandates out-of-network coverage for mental health and substance-related disorders, which is beyond the requirements for federal employees. More importantly, H.R. 1424 does not protect employers from conflicting state and local laws and remedies, and should use the "HIPAA standard" for all participants in employer-sponsored health plans.
The Chamber recognizes the importance of providing mental health benefits. However, mandates can make health care more expensive, constrain employers' flexibility in plan offerings, and ultimately, cause employers to cut or curtail voluntary benefit offerings. To this end, the Chamber strongly urges you to vote against H.R. 1424 and may consider votes on, or in relation to, this issue in our annual How They Voted scorecard.
R. Bruce Josten