Mental health parity may finally become a reality

The Wellstone Act could bring better health care to millions of Americans

Others, however, are more skeptical.

"The White House has promised 'later this year,'" says Ellen Gerrity. "But everyone knows that later this year can become another year. It's not a comfortable position to not have an exact date."

If regulations aren't approved by October, when the Affordable Care Act begins to take effect, then that will mean at least another year "of people not getting the care they deserve," says Dave Wellstone. "And the care they're entitled to under the law."

Katie Bird, framed by files from the long fight with her insurance company
Mark N. Kartarik
Katie Bird, framed by files from the long fight with her insurance company
Paul Wellstone at a parity rally in summer 2002, while Pete Domenici speaks
Paul Wellstone at a parity rally in summer 2002, while Pete Domenici speaks

Wellstone isn't backing down until he sees President Obama's signature on final regulations.

"There are two schools on this," he told a group of University of Minnesota students at a recent action strategy meeting. "The first is to just let it happen. But I'm in the second, the school of keep pushing hard. It's been four years. We can't really sit around much longer."

Gerrity notes that Paul Wellstone, the man who inspired parity, wouldn't have been surprised at how much work remains to be done.

"Paul always talked about it as similar to civil rights, as a long march," she remembers. "It is a long march. And we're still walking it." 

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