Busy 24 Hours on the Hill

Last night, the Senate passed its version of the enhanced mental health parity legislation (S. 558) by unanimous consent. Today, the Health Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee cleared the more aggressive House version of this legislation by a 10-3 vote (HR 1424). The House Labor and Education Committee previously cleared H.R. 1424 and the full Ways and Means Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee also must consider it. Business Insurance explains that

[The Senate bill] differs in several significant respects from legislation passed in July by the House Education and Labor Committee. Under the Senate bill, self-funded employers would decide which mental health care disorders they would cover. In the case of insured plans, the Senate bill would act as a floor and not pre-empt tougher state parity laws. By contrast, the House committee bill would tie the type of mental health care disorders that group health care plans must offer to coverage provided by health plans available to federal employees.

An interest group called Wellstone Action is urging the House speaker Nancy Pelosi to hold a vote on the House bill as soon as possible. According to the Associated Press, the Speaker is planning a mid-October vote.
The House of Representatives today passed a compromise version of the FDA Prescription Drug User Fee reauthorization bill by a 405 – 7 vote. The bill now goes to the Senate which is expected to give its prompt approval and the President has indicated that he will sign the bill. The compromise bill includes a number of new prescription drug safety measures, including post-market safety studies, but not a pathway to biogenerics. Crisis averted.

According to the Wall Street Journal, House and Senate conferees are in the process of essentially adopting the Senate version of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program reauthorization bill, which includes a $35 billion increase in SCHIP funding over 5 years but no Medicare changes. The President has threatened to veto the SCHIP funding increase greater than the $5 billion that he proposed, but the Senate passed its bill by a veto proof margin. The solons agreed to consider the Medicare changes later this year. I would not be surprised if the same result is achieved with the mental health parity legislation as the Senate bill has the most bipartisan support.