Mental Health Parity Act | Mental Health Statistics

How will the mental health and substance use parity law have an effect on your insurance coverage? Within 2008, Congress passed the Pete Domenici and Paul Wellstone Mental Health Parity Act taking a big leap forward within the ten+ years battle to end insurance discrimination for the ones seeking help for substance use and mental health disorders. The act requires health insurance providers to cover physical and mental health equally. Underneath the law, insurance providers can’t any longer arbitrarily restrict the amount of outpatient treatment segments, or hospital days, or assign more expensive deductibles or co-payments for the ones who need psychological services.


This 2008 act shuts many of those loopholes left by a Mental Health and Substance Use Parity Act of 1996 and extends the same coverage to every aspect of a health insurance plan, involving visit and day limits, dollar limitations, co-payments, coinsurance, maximum out-of-pockets and deductibles. It’ll preserve existing consumer protection and state parity laws as it extends protection of mental services to eighty-two million American citizens not protected from any state laws. This bill additionally assures mental coverage for out-of-network and in network services alike.

Studies show that physical health will be connected directly to mental health, as well as many Americans understand that suffering with mental health disorders could be as debilitating and frightening as any chronic physical health ailment. Passage of the law causes the health system within the U.S. to begin treating the entire individual, both body and mind.


To Recap, What’s Mental Health & Substance Use Parity?


Parity will mean equal coverage for physical health and mental health conditions covered underneath health plans. Mental Health Parity & Addiction Equity Act of 2008 offers this:


  • Equal benefits: It means benefits coverage for substance use and mental health treatments have to be a minimum of equal to that coverage offered for a physical health service.
  • Equal limitations: Every one of the monetary requirements and treatment limits applied to substance use and mental health benefits might be no more limitational than for a physical health benefit.
  • Equal cost-sharing: This law prohibits the usage of higher cost-sharing for patients (maximum out-of-pocket expenses, co-payments, deductibles) for substance use and mental health benefits than for a physical benefit. For instance, a co-payment for psychotherapy is the same quantity as the co-pay for an office visitation with a family doctor.


What will the Mental Health Parity & Addiction Equity Act Perform?


This applies to groups of over fifty employees: This act, effective last January 1st, 2010, ended inequities within health insurance benefits in between substance use/mental health disorders and surgical/medical benefits for a group health plan with over fifty workers.


Creates equity: Will apply to all monetary requirements within health insurance plans, involving: annual and lifetime dollar limitations, copayments, deductibles, out-of-pocket costs, co-insurance, and to all treatment limits involving treatment frequency, amount of visitations, coverage days and additional similar limitations.


Insurance plans are no longer going to have the ability to apply different deductibles for a mental health service than they will for a physical health service, or more restricting limitations to the amount of treatment days or sessions of hospital stays.


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When did the law go into effect?


Mental Health Parity & Addiction Equity Act applied to many health plans starting January 1st, 2010. The 1996 parity law remained in effect through Dec. 31st, of 2009.


Will my health plan be made to comply with the law?


This act applies to every group health plan with over fifty workers, whether they’re self-funded (regulated underneath ERISA) or completely insured (regulated underneath state law), which offer substance use or mental health benefits. These health plans that have fifty or fewer workers are going to stay subject to present state mental health parity mandates. The law doesn’t apply to individual insurance markets.


What diagnoses will be involved under parity?


This parity act covers every diagnosis for mental disorders. It goes above the 1996 act and a few mandated benefit and state parity laws by additionally requiring parity for substance abuse disorders. There will be no exclusions. Presently, in effect, whatever a plan will cover must be at parity with what’s covered for a physical health problem. As within the present system, a health plan might deny coverage based upon clinical necessity or underneath the terms of its coverage term with the employer.


Could benefits for a certain diagnosis be excluded from coverage underneath the parity law?


Absolutely, employers aren’t prohibited from dropping coverage for diagnoses. This act widely describes substance use and mental health disorder benefits, meaning benefits that have respect to services for a mental health condition and a substance use disorder, as described underneath the contract of the plan and within accordance with applicable state and federal law.


Will the act possess any impact upon benefits management and clinical need criteria?


Health plans might manage the benefits underneath the conditions and terms of a plan. This act mandates insurance plans to make clinical necessity criteria obtainable to potential or current participants, providers or beneficiaries on request. Health plans must additionally make reasons for payment denials obtainable to beneficiaries or participants upon request or as required otherwise.


Will the parity law apply to out-of-network services?


Definitely. Underneath this law, if the health plan offers out-of-network mental and physical health/substance abuse disorder benefits, those services have to be offered at parity.


If plans presently offers just an out-of-network physical health benefit, the law requires it to add an out-of-network mental health & substance use disorder benefit, at parity.


Could health plans completely drop mental health & substance use benefits?


Definitely. This act doesn’t require health plans to offer mental health & substance use benefits, yet if a plan provides this type of coverage, it has to be at parity with physical health coverages.


Elimination of these benefits will likely be extremely costly to a health plan. One Kaiser Family Foundation Yearly Survey of Benefits exhibited that 97% of plans already offer substance use and mental health benefits. It’s currently accepted those benefits are an important portion of treating many health ailments. Efficient treatment of many illnesses such as asthma, congestive heart conditions and diabetes requires a complete treatment and recognition of comorbid substance use and mental health disorders.


My state already possesses a parity law. How is this federal law going to impact state law?


State laws just apply to completely insured groups. They don’t apply to ‘self-insured’ ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) groups. So far, 43 states enacted parity laws. Whilst a few of the laws offer for solid parity protections, most aren’t as comprehensive as the federal law. For the states that have solid existing parity laws, Mental Health Parity & Addiction Equity Act will be protective of state law. If the provision within a state parity law offers less protection than a federal law, it’s the federal law which prevails. Conversely, if a state law offers more protection than a federal law, state law will prevail.


Will the law apply to Medicaid and Medicare patients?


This act doesn’t apply to patients of Medicare. Last July of 2008, Congress offered Medicare coinsurance parities for patients of Medicare by 2014 as it enacted ‘phase-in parity’ underneath MIPPA (Medicare Improvements for Patients & Providers Act).




Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: