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Mental Health Parity

Why Employers Care

Many employers already voluntarily offer generous mental health and substance abuse treatment benefits for their employees because it improves employees' health and productivity. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 requirements could make it difficult for employers to provide effective, high-quality, well-managed mental health benefits affordably.

The $700 billion Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (H.R. 1424) included provisions expanding the 1996 mental health parity law, that requires plans that offer mental health services to have the same or higher lifetime and annual limits on coverage for mental health services as for other benefits. This law mandates that if plans do cover mental health or substance abuse treatment programs, they must meet cost-sharing, service limit and out-of-network requirements that are as generous or better than that for other health conditions.

The Departments of Labor (DoL), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Health and Human Services (HHS) released the long awaited the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) rules outlining how employers can provide benefits at parity for mental health and substance use disorders (MH/SUD) if they offer them. The National Business Group on Health sent comments to the Department of Labor urging delay of effective dates and reconsideration of some aspects of the regulations to assure continuing access to mental health and substance abuse benefits.

In November of 2013 the IRS, DOL, and HHS issued final regulations implementing the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, which provide guidance on coordination with ACA requirements, a general exemption for EAPs from MHPAEA requirements, and acceptable non-quantitative treatment limits, among other topics.

What Can Employers Do?

Members of the National Business Group on Health can voice their concerns to the Business Group's public policy team and by responding to public policy opportunities to comment on proposed regulations, contact Congress and/or the Administration, testify, or participate in related activities.

Relevant Tools and Resources Include:

Page last updated: January 29, 2014

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