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House bill would doom mental health parity law


DO ADVOCATES OF mental health care benefits parity in the House want enactment of legislation this session?

If they do, then they would be wise to drop their support of a bill in the House in favor of a measure approved by a Senate panel.

There are several troubling provisions in the House measure, but one makes it unacceptable--requiring equitable coverage of any diagnosis listed in the psychiatric community's manual of mental health disorders.

That goes far beyond parity. Since when is the listing of a condition a mandate for coverage? Should employers be required to provide the same coverage for every dental problem that they offer for treatment of medical problems?

With employers footing the bill, they should have the right to decide what should be covered in their benefit plans.

We think the approach on mental health care benefits parity taken by the Senate's Heath, Education, Labor and Pension Committee is reasonable. If an employer provides coverage for mental health disorders, that coverage should be equal to that provided for other medical conditions.

The House measure surely will win approval in that chamber, but final passage is another matter. Given the work Senate legislators have put into their bill, we can't see them endorsing the House approach.

That will mean stalemate. With that likely result, we ask House legislators and their supporters: Do you want an issue, or do you want enactment of legislation that improves coverage of mental disorders?

We think the answer should be obvious.