Many health insurance plans are able to deny coverage for mental illnesses and addiction treatment to their subscribers. This discrimination against mental health conditions puts treatment for thousands of Americans out of reach because of the cost; or instead, it forces patients to pay for their treatment out of pocket. To me, this discrimination is unjust. Anyone who needs treatment for their illness deserves to have adequate access to treatment. I am not only a cosponsor of H.R. 1424, the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act, but as a member of the Education and Labor Committee I voted in the affirmative in committee.

This important bill, named for the late Senator Wellstone, a strong champion of this cause, would protect mental health benefits for an estimated 113 million people. Insurance companies would be required to treat mental illnesses the same as physical illnesses, forcing them to finally accept what medical research has shown for years: that mental illnesses and addiction problems are diseases affecting the brain. This bill would establish a national minimum coverage level for mental health conditions without preempting tougher state laws and extend coverage for a broad range of conditions.

I am a strong supporter of full mental health parity for everyone and as such proudly voted in support of this bill when it was brought to the floor last night.