September 25, 2008

Senate Passes Bill to Grow America’s Green Economy, and Require Equality in Mental Health Care

Bill Provides Tax Credits for Development of Renewable Energy and Includes Mental Health Provision Championed by Congressman Kennedy

Washington, D.C. – To support American families and businesses working to conserve energy and grow our green economy, the U.S. Senate has passed legislation renewing tax credits that will help America become more energy efficient and encourage development of solar power, wind power, fuel cells, and other renewable energy sources.

The bill also contains a measure, championed by Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), which would require health care coverage for mental health services to be equal to coverage for physical illness.

“When both families and businesses invest in energy efficient technology, our green economy grows,” said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. “I hope Rhode Islanders will take advantage of these tax credits to increase the production and usage of solar, wind, and other forms of renewable energy in our Ocean State, and I will continue working to pass broad-based reforms to address global climate change and break our addiction to foreign oil.”

“I warmly congratulate my friend, Congressman Patrick Kennedy, who has fought so long for equal treatment for those struggling with mental illness. I hope nothing more will stand in the way of this bill becoming law,” Whitehouse said.

The Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008 (H.R.6049) provides tax credits to encourage consumers to make energy efficient modifications to existing homes. Modifications eligible for the credits include the installation of solar panels, residential small wind turbines, geothermal heat pumps, and energy efficient biomass fuel stoves. Tax credits are also available for the construction of new energy efficient homes and the purchase of plug-in electric drive vehicles. The bill also provides incentives for the purchase of Smart Meters, which help consumers monitor their energy use to help lower household energy consumption and cut costs.

For businesses, the energy bill encourages energy efficient modifications to commercial facilities, such as installation of solar panels, small commercial wind turbines, fuel cells, combined heat and power systems, and geothermal heat pumps. It also provides tax credits for manufacturers who produce certain energy efficient appliances.

The mental health care provision of this bill amends the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996 so that the millions of Americans affected by clinically significant mental disorders each year are not treated differently than patients with other illnesses. It requires group health plans of 50 or more employees that provide both mental health and physical health benefits to ensure that the financial requirements and treatment limitations are equal between the two.

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