Senate Bailout Bill Includes Parity Amendment

The Wall Street bailout bill passed by the U.S. Senate on Oct. 1 was amended to include addiction and mental health parity legislation. The bill passed by a 74-25 margin and now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The House defeated an earlier version of the bailout bill, which fell 12 votes short of approval. A vote on the amended legislation could take place as early as Friday.

The Senate bill includes a number of additions intended to make the legislation more attractive to House members who voted against the previous version, such as tax breaks for individuals and companies, disaster-relief funding, and extensions of existing tax credits.

Formally the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, the parity bill is now inextricably tied to the fate of the bailout bill. Earlier, the Senate had passed the Wellstone bill as part of its tax-extenders bill (now also incorporated into the bailout legislation), while the House had approved a stand-alone version of the parity measure.

The bill would bar insurers from placing restrictions on mental health and addiction care that don't apply to other health conditions, although it does not require insurance plans to include coverage for addictive and mental-health disorders.

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