Last Friday, the House of Representatives passed the Senate’s revised version of the $700 billion bailout bill, H.R. 1424, by a vote of 263-171. This was a significant turnaround from last Monday’s House vote of 205-228, which rejected the first version of the bailout bill. H.R. 1424 was signed into law by President Bush the same day.
As we previously reported here, the key provisions of H.R. 1424’s Division A, also known as the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (the “Emergency Act”), relating to troubled assets that the House initially rejected remained the same in the Senate’s version, however the Senate revised the Act to include several new provisions and attached the Act to other bills in order to generate additional support. Among those other bills was the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (the “Mental Health Parity Act”), which can be found in H.R. 1424’s Division C. The Mental Health Parity Act requires health care plans to provide the same coverage benefits for mental illnesses that are provided for medical illnesses. Currently, many health care plans limit the number of annual outpatient visits for treatment of mental illnesses, but not for medical illnesses. It has been reported that many employers will now need to amend their health care plans, and the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that health insurance premiums should only increase by approximately 0.2%. Employers will need to be in compliance as of the date on which the last of the collective bargaining agreements relating to the plan terminates or January 1, 2009, whichever is later.