House Committee on Education and Labor
U.S. House of Representatives

Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon
Ranking Member

Fiscally responsible reforms for students, workers and retirees.



Dear Colleague

March 5, 2008

CONTACT: Alexa Marrero
(202) 225-4527

Employers Favor a Responsible Mental Health Parity Bill

Dear Colleague:

We would like to bring your attention to the concerns the nation’s largest employers have with H.R. 1424 the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act because it will significantly increase the cost of providing health care to their employees.

Among those that oppose H.R. 1424 are the Allied Coalition, which includes: Aetna, American Benefits Council, Assurant, BlueCross/BlueShield Association, CIGNA, National Association of Health Underwriters, National Association of Manufacturers, National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, National Business Group on Health, National Restaurant Association, National Retail Federation, Retail Industry Leaders Association, Society for Human Resource Management, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Specifically, H.R. 1424 does the following.

1.    Imposes a broad mandate that private health plans cover a wide array of mental health conditions (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), which preempts lesser state mandates;

2.    Lacks adequate protection for the medical management of benefits;

3.    Allows the states to enact more extensive laws governing remedies for handling complaints against health plans, including an alternative remedy structure;

4.    Mandates parity for out-of-network mental health benefits if employers offer any other benefit on an out-of-network basis.

By imposing greater mandates, Congress will force employers to either increase premiums or drop healthcare coverage altogether.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that enacting the House bill will result in nearly $3.5 billion in lost revenue due to higher premiums for employer-sponsored health benefits and increased costs to employees. 

The mandates included in the House bill are neither fiscally conservative nor fiscally responsible.  By not imposing broad new coverage mandates, Congress can keep the coverage of mental health and substance-abuse conditions more affordable and more equitable.  Instead of passing H.R. 1424, the House should instead pass S. 588, the Mental Health Parity Bill Act of 2007, which passed the Senate unanimously last fall.

On the reverse side is a letter from employer groups outlining their concerns with H.R. 1424.  Please contact our staff should you need any additional information.



Nathan Deal         
Ways and Means Committee


Dave Camp
Energy and Commerce Committee


John Kline
Education and Labor Committee           

March 4, 2008

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
U.S. House of Representatives
The Capitol H-232
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Speaker Pelosi:

We write in joint and strong opposition to H.R. 1424, the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007. Each of our organizations (which maintain key vote programs) would consider votes in connection with H.R. 1424 or similar legislation for inclusion as key votes.

We strongly oppose H.R. 1424 as introduced and subsequently marked up, because it:

• imposes a broad benefit mandate (DSM-IV) that preempts lesser state mandates;

• lacks adequate protection for the medical management of benefits;

• allows the states to enact more extensive laws including an alternative remedy structure; and

• mandates out-of-network coverage.

Successive markups in the three House Committees of jurisdiction (Education and Labor; Energy and Commerce; and Ways and Means) failed to improve this legislation and in fact made it progressively worse. The House bills would threaten our ability to maintain the mental health coverage that today is a vital component of employer-sponsored health plans.

Employers and our allies support the Senate-passed bill (S. 558, Domenici-Kennedy-Enzi) because this bill is the product of detailed and intense three-way negotiations between the sponsors, members of the mental health care community, employers and our allies.  S. 558 enacts true mental health parity without sacrificing the flexibility employers need to maintain affordable health coverage.

Again, we strongly oppose H.R. 1424 and urge its defeat upon consideration by the full House. We urge the House instead to work with us to help pass S. 558 and enact meaningful mental health parity legislation this year.


National Retail Federation

U.S. Chamber of Commerce


National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors

American Benefits Council

National Business Group on Health

National Association of Health Underwriters

Retail Industry Leaders Association

National Restaurant Association

Team Builders International