Mental Health Parity & Addiction Equity Act is Now Law

With all the focus on the "bailout" measures included in last Friday's passage of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (H.R. 1424), less attention has been given to the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (HR 6983), which was included when President Bush signed H.R. 1424 into law. H.R. 6983 already had easily passed in the House and Senate and received widespread support among employers. The legislation is intended for millions of Americans who deal with mental illness and face unfair discrimination in higher deductibles and co-payments, as well as limits on doctor visits and hospital stays.

Now law, the bill will require group health insurance plans to cover mental illness and substance abuse disorders on the same terms and conditions as other illnesses and help to end discrimination against those who seek treatment for mental illness. The law requires the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Treasury to issue regulations within one year.

H.R. 6983 does not mandate group health plans provide any mental health coverage. However, if a plan does offer mental health coverage, then, it requires:

  • Equity in financial requirements, such as deductibles, co-payments, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket expenses.
  • Equity in treatment limits, such as caps on the frequency or number of visits, limits on days of coverage, or other similar limits on the scope and duration of treatment.
  • Equality in out-of-network coverage.

H.R. 6983 also does not affect state laws that offer stronger consumer protections.

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