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March 5th, 2008
Rep. Grijalva Supports Landmark Bill to Expand Mental Health Coverage

Washington, D.C. Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today joined a bipartisan majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in support of landmark legislation that will help end discrimination against patients requiring treatment for mental illnesses.

The Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act was approved by a vote of 268-148.

Rep. Grijalva has supported the Act since his first term in the 108th Congress.

 “Mental illnesses are treatable diseases that impact millions of Americans each year, including minorities who are less likely to receive needed mental health services” said Grijalva. “Unfortunately, many group health plans currently do not provide the same coverage for mental illnesses as they do for physical ailments. I’m proud to support important legislation that will help end this practice and ensure more Americans get the care they need and deserve.”

The bill prohibits insurers and group health plans from imposing treatment or financial limitations when they offer mental health benefits that are more restrictive from those applied to medical and surgical services. It applies only to insurers and group health plans that provide mental health benefits and the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that this legislation will have a miniscule impact on health insurance premiums.

Over the last eight years, the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) has made “parity” coverage for mental health care available to Members of Congress and 8.5 million other federal employees.  Research has shown that there has been no significant cost increase attributable to this new coverage.  Now, this bill makes available to all Americans the access to affordable mental health services already available to Members of Congress.

In addition, Latinos are at high-risk for depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Fewer than 1 in 11 Latinos with mental health disorders contact mental health specialists, while fewer than 1 in 5 contact general health providers. 

“Reducing the stigma in mental health coverage is critical, especially to Latinos,” Grijalva added.  “Eliminating the false distinction between maladies affecting the brain and mind versus any other organs of the body, and requiring parity in coverage, is a sensible and humane step toward a healthier society and happier individuals. We have sent a clear message about the importance of mental health treatment.”

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