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Bill Passes House - Medicare Psychiatric Parity.

Posted by SLS on July 2, 2008, at 5:46:42

House Passes Bill to End Discriminatory Payments for Mental Health Services

Marlene Busko

Medscape Medical News 2008. 2008 Medscape

June 27, 2008 The US House of Representatives passed Bill HR6331, which reduces the 50% coinsurance that patients pay for outpatient mental health services to the same 20% copayment charged for all other Medicare Part B services.

The bill was passed on June 25 by a vote of 355 to 59.

"The House showed great foresight in taking steps to finally end 40 years of discrimination against patients just because they need mental health treatments," said Nada Stotland, MD, president of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), in a press release. "It is unconscionable to require the elderly and disabled to pay half the cost of their mental healthcare out of pocket. This change makes social and economic sense. The APA will continue to advocate for this legislation until it becomes law."

In addition, the bill blocks a 10.6% cut in payments to physicians and other health professionals through 2009.

"The bill also requires [Medicare Part D coverage] for effective and commonly used medications (benzodiazepines and barbiturates) and will help ensure that medically vulnerable patients including psychiatric patients will have access to the medications they need for their treatment," Dr. Stotland told Medscape Psychiatry.

The legislation also includes language to codify the "all or substantially all" policy (currently a regulatory guideline to ensure that Part D drug plans cover all or substantially all of the medications within certain classes such as antipsychotics, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and antivirals).

The next step, said Dr. Stotland, is for the Senate to take up the House-passed Medicare bill HR6331. Shortly after the House passed the bill, Senate Republicans blocked consideration of the bill under unanimous consent. To proceed, the Democrats will file a motion to cut off debate and bring the bill up for a vote, which will most likely happen in a few days. If the bill is approved, it will go to the president to be signed, where it is unclear whether he would veto it. Based on the margin of victory in the House, the bill is veto-proof in that chamber, and it appears that there will be 67 Senators who are prepared to vote for the bill, the number needed to make the bill veto-proof in the Senate, she added.




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