A new step toward mental health parity

I can’t believe it! Yesterday, The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 was finally implemented, prohibiting group health insurance plans from restricting access to care by limiting benefits and requiring higher patient costs for mental health and substance abuse disorders compared with those costs that apply to general medical or surgical benefits.

The new rules were jointly issued yesterday by the US Department of Labor, the US Department of Health and Human Services, and the Treasury. This act was originally passed by the House in 2008 but never became law until now.

The act expands on the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996, which required parity in lifetime benefits for mental and physical disorders and was not applicable to substance use disorder benefits. According to the Department of Health and Human Services release, the new law applies to out-of-pocket costs, benefit limits, and practices such as prior authorization and use review.

Beginning on or after July 1, 2010, the Act will apply to group coverage provided by employers with 50 or more workers whose group health plans offer mental health or substance use disorder benefits.

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