Mental health parity and genetic non-discrimination bills

As discussed in the FEHBlog, two health care bills likely to be enacted in this Congress are the Sen. Wellstone memorial mental health parity bills and the genetic non-discrimination bills. The New York Times has published relevant articles over the past two days.

In today’s Times, there is an article by Robert Pear under the headline “Proposals for Mental Health Parity Pit a Father’s Pragmatism Against a Son’s Passion.” The Senate bill was introduced by Sen. Ted Kennedy, while the stronger House bill was introduced by his son, Rep. Patrick Kennedy. Both men have described their bills as being based on the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program’s successful mental health parity initiative. However, the article fails to mention that both bills vary from the FEHB Program’s cost effective approach in that they require parity for out-of-network benefits. The FEHB Program’s mental health parity initiative is limited to in-network benefits which incents members to use the cost-effective network providers. Also neither bill recognizes the role of the Office of Personnel Management because the bills lump the FEHB Program with other programs covered by the Public Health Service Act.

In Sunday’s Times, there was a front page article about a young woman’s decision to undergo genetic testing to learn whether or not she has the fatal illness Huntington Disease whose symptoms appear in middle age.