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As national mental health advocates prepare for the coming legislative year, they need only look at the unfinished business of 200l to determine what their priorities are.
First and foremost, parity tops the list. After the U.S. Senate passed a mental health parity measure that extended the reach of an existing parity law to include inpatient days, outpatient visits, copayments and deductibles, a House-Senate conference committee removed the amendment from the fiscal 2002 spending bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS) and Education.
"Our principal goal is to get mental health parity legislation over the goal line," Ralph Ibson, vice president of government affairs at the National Mental Health Association (NMHA), told MHW.
Laurel Stine, director of federal relations with the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, told MHW that passage of parity should happen this year. She said advocates will continue to build a broad coalition around this issue.
The managed behavioral health care industry is part of that coalition. Pamela Greenberg, executive director of the American Managed Behavioral Healthcare Association (AMBHA), told MHW that passage of a mental health parity bill constitutes her organization's biggest legislative issue of 2002.
Greenberg said that the goal is to have a bill pass early in the year in the hope that the implementation date of last year's unsuccessful bill -- …