With the Clock Ticking, Congress Set to Vote on Parity Bill

As Congress prepares to adjourn for the year, advocates for federal addiction and mental-health parity legislation are feverishly mobilizing grassroots pressure in anticipation of floor votes in the House and Senate as early as Monday or Tuesday.

Much of the attention is now focused on the House, with Faces and Voices of Recovery launching an online action alert where voters can look up their Representative's past vote on parity and contact him or her about the impending final vote. The House leadership plans to introduce the bill under a suspension of the rules, which limits debate to 40 minutes and requires a two-thirds vote for passage.

The bill, recently renamed the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, is a compromise between separate versions of the legislation passed by the House and Senate earlier in the session. It would require health insurers to cover addictive diseases and mental-health conditions on par with other illnesses.

In the Senate, the parity legislation is included in a bipartisan tax and energy bill that is also slated for an impending floor vote.

Amid the grassroots organizing, the parity bill got a bipartisan boost on Sept. 19 with a letter from fomer first ladies Betty Ford and Rosalynn Carter published in the Washington Post. The American Bar Association also weighed in with a letter to each member of Congress supporting the compromise legislation.


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