Federal bill will infringe on Ct. laws, Blumenthal complains

John O'Brien Jul. 26, 2007, 2:33pm


HARTFORD, Conn. - Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal would like to see a U.S. Senate mental health bill fail because he thinks it will dilute the effect Connecticut's laws can have.

Blumenthal said the laws in his own state are more suited to protect customers than the Mental Health Parity Act, which would expand mental health benefits in states that have failed to provide adequate benefits.

However, Blumenthal says it will require weaker benefits than Connecticut's laws already do.

"The message to federal leaders: Give us a mental health bill that will enhance, not eliminate, mental health services," Blumenthal said. "Connecticut and states nationwide have invested dollars and dedication to ensure vital mental health services.

"The federal Mental Health Parity Act will preempt and invalidate services in Connecticut and elsewhere, undermining and undoing important protections for our most vulnerable citizens."

Blumenthal expressed his concern in a letter to Sen. Christopher Dodd in which Healthcare Advocate Kevin Lembo joined.

According to a report in the Hartford Courant, officials in at least eight other states want the bill changed. It is designed to make mental health disabilities covered as thoroughly as other health problems.

The report also outlines the ways in which the federal bill conflicts with Connecticut's laws.

For example, charges for mental problems are supposed to be covered the same way cardiac care would be, though the state law does not apply to self-insured plans. In those, employers save money to pay for their workers' health care and hire insurers or other firms to handle administrative functions. The federal bill would apply to such situations.

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