The Eating Disorders Coalition applauds the U.S. House of Representatives who, in an historic vote that lasted late into the night on Saturday, November 7, 2009, approved the Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962)!
We extend our deepest gratitude to all 220 Members of the House who voted "Aye" on HR 3962. And we offer specific thanks to our champion of the FREED Act (HR 1193), Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), and his health legislative staff, who tirelessly dedicated their energy and expertise to ensure the inclusion of Mental Health and Substance Abuse language within the Affordable Health Care for America Act.
One key aspect of HR 3962 that specifically relates to all those impacted by Eating and Body Image Disorders is the extension of mental health parity that was passed into law in 2008. Congressman Kennedy offered these remarks underscoring the significance of the inclusion of Mental Health and Substance Abuse language in this historic Bill (HR 3962): "A key aspect of this legislation that is of particular importance to me is the extension of the mental health parity protections established into law last year by my legislation, the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. Not only are these protections extended to all plans in the Health Insurance Exchange, but mental health and substance use benefits are a part of the essential benefits package created by this legislation. For 67% of adults and 80% of children needing mental health care that do not receive it, this victory cannot be understated. I commend my colleagues and my fellow citizens for their leadership in recognizing that the health of the mind truly cannot be separated from the health of the body." The Congressman also voiced his commitment to work with the Senate as they come to the point of introducing healthcare reform legislation, "to ensure that these critical provisions are retained" (in the Senate bill).
Not only did Jeanine Cogan, our Policy Director, work closely with staffers from various offices during the process of healthcare reform being legislated on both sides of the Hill, but so too did many of you join us for our September Lobby Day to advocate for both the FREED Act (HR 1193) and in support of a health care reform bill that included provisions for mental health and substance abuse! Your voices helped increase support for the goals outlined by Congressman Kennedy and his late father, Senator Edward M. Kennedy: to ensure guaranteed coverage for treatment for mental health and substance abuse in the essential benefits package! It was in using your voice on Lobby Day that helped raise awareness with key offices for the need of a healthcare reform bill that would save rather than threaten lives by eliminating coverage denial for pre-existing conditions, eliminate limits of lifetime dollars on what insurers will pay, and also for lowering costs for preventative care and negating rate increases for pre-existing conditions. Perhaps most importantly, your advocacy on Lobby Day helped garner support of a bill that encourages doctors to make health care decisions rather than insurance companies making decisions about what care is necessary!
The fact that we were able to actually get meetings with staffers and Members of Congress during a very healthcare reform focused, and somewhat chaotic time, on the Hill speaks volumes towards underscoring the positive reputation that the Eating Disorders Coalition has established over the past nine years. From meeting with Members of Congress and their staff, building relationships, and continuing to raise awareness of eating disorders through our dedicated advocacy based on our mission statement, we have become the known voice on the Hill on the topic of eating disorders, including in relation to obesity initiatives. We offer our deepest gratitude to each of you who have supported our mission, especially our Lobby Day efforts, and we look forward to continuing our advocacy efforts with you in the future.
While the Affordable Health Care for America Act lends valuable outlines for the treatment of those affected by mental health and substance abuse, there is still work to be done for those impacted by eating and body image disorders. And we need your help to further the FREED Act in both the House and Senate. One very simple step you can take is to join in the forward momentum on the FREED Act by participating in our November Letter Writing Campaign! To find out how you can join in, please go to: http://www.eatingdisorderscoalition.org/LetterWritingCampaign2009.htm
Finally, I want to acknowledge that the next step in healthcare reform does now rest with the Senate. The Eating Disorders Coalition employs hope that both Chambers will come to a timely and the best decision for the millions of Americans who currently live with disparate coverage, unaffordable coverage, or worse, without any health insurance coverage at all. We hold onto the hope that the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy expressed so beautifully in his article published with Newsweek magazine (July 27, 2009), "Every American should be able to get the same treatment that U.S. Senators are entitled to... This is the cause of my life. It is a key reason I defied my illness last summer to speak at the Democratic convention in December…to make sure, as I said, “that we break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American…will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not just a privilege.” ~ What an awesome vision!
On that note, I'm off to the Hill to advocate for the FREED Act, filled with hope that we will see the FREED Act passed into law! Afterall, it is the right thing to do!
Your Policy Assistant, Kathleen