Retailers Support Mental Health Coverage Compromise

Feb 12, 2007, 00:00 ET from National Retail Federation

    WASHINGTON, Feb. 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Retail Federation welcomed mental health parity legislation unveiled today after negotiations between lawmakers, mental health advocates and the business and insurance communities, but cautioned that support hinges on passage of the bill without additional substantive changes.     "NRF is pleased to support this carefully crafted legislation," NRF Senior Vice President for Government Relations Steve Pfister said. "We are greatly encouraged by the carefully targeted preemption of inconsistent state laws, the clear protection for medical management of the benefit and the preservation of employer control over benefit and network design."     "Our hard-earned support is not unconditional," Pfister added, however. "Any additional substantive changes at the committee level or before the full Senate will likely force us to withdraw our support. We certainly hope that will not be necessary, and that this balanced compromise will be moved forward in the Senate and House and enacted into law."     Pfister's comments came in a letter to Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., Ranking Member Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., and long-time mental health parity advocate Senator Pete Domenici, R-N.M. The three today announced the introduction of the Mental Health Parity Act of 2007. The bill would establish federal standards addressing parity between coverage provided for mental health and coverage provided for medical/surgical treatment, including both financial requirements and treatment limitations. It also preempts inconsistent state parity laws or regulations, and protects employers' management of mental health benefits.     Pfister said NRF has traditionally opposed most health care mandates, saying mandates and restrictions on health care plans drive up the cost of coverage. Many retailers already provide mental health coverage as an integral component of their health care plans, making mandates unnecessary. Nonetheless, NRF has played a leading role in negotiating with Kennedy, Enzi and Domenici on the new legislation and believes that it strikes a reasonable balance.     The National Retail Federation is the world's largest retail trade association, with membership that comprises all retail formats and channels of distribution including department, specialty, discount, catalog, Internet, independent stores, chain restaurants, drug stores and grocery stores as well as the industry's key trading partners of retail goods and services. NRF represents an industry with more than 1.6 million U.S. retail establishments, more than 24 million employees - about one in five American workers - and 2006 sales of $4.7 trillion. As the industry umbrella group, NRF also represents more than 100 state, national and international retail associations. http://www.nrf.com.  

SOURCE National Retail Federation
    WASHINGTON, Feb. 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Retail Federation welcomed mental health parity legislation unveiled today after negotiations between lawmakers, mental health advocates and the business and insurance communities, but cautioned that support hinges on passage of the bill without additional substantive changes.     "NRF is pleased to support this carefully crafted legislation," NRF Senior Vice President for Government Relations Steve Pfister said. "We are greatly encouraged by the carefully targeted preemption of inconsistent state laws, the clear protection for medical management of the benefit and the preservation of employer control over benefit and network design."     "Our hard-earned support is not unconditional," Pfister added, however. "Any additional substantive changes at the committee level or before the full Senate will likely force us to withdraw our support. We certainly hope that will not be necessary, and that this balanced compromise will be moved forward in the Senate and House and enacted into law."     Pfister's comments came in a letter to Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., Ranking Member Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., and long-time mental health parity advocate Senator Pete Domenici, R-N.M. The three today announced the introduction of the Mental Health Parity Act of 2007. The bill would establish federal standards addressing parity between coverage provided for mental health and coverage provided for medical/surgical treatment, including both financial requirements and treatment limitations. It also preempts inconsistent state parity laws or regulations, and protects employers' management of mental health benefits.     Pfister said NRF has traditionally opposed most health care mandates, saying mandates and restrictions on health care plans drive up the cost of coverage. Many retailers already provide mental health coverage as an integral component of their health care plans, making mandates unnecessary. Nonetheless, NRF has played a leading role in negotiating with Kennedy, Enzi and Domenici on the new legislation and believes that it strikes a reasonable balance.     The National Retail Federation is the world's largest retail trade association, with membership that comprises all retail formats and channels of distribution including department, specialty, discount, catalog, Internet, independent stores, chain restaurants, drug stores and grocery stores as well as the industry's key trading partners of retail goods and services. NRF represents an industry with more than 1.6 million U.S. retail establishments, more than 24 million employees - about one in five American workers - and 2006 sales of $4.7 trillion. As the industry umbrella group, NRF also represents more than 100 state, national and international retail associations. http://www.nrf.com.  SOURCE National Retail Federation