Included as part of the recent financial rescue/bailout bill signed by President Bush, was the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. This will end health insurance benefits inequity between mental health/substance use disorders and medical/surgical benefits for group health plans with more than 50 employees. This means that equity in coverage will apply to all financial requirements, including lifetime and annual dollar limits, deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket expenses, and to all treatment limitations, including frequency of treatment, number of visits, days of coverage and other similar limits.
The new law will go into effect on 1/1/10, in order to give insurance companies time to change their policies. Medicaire and Medicaid are exempt. Medicare co-payments for mental health services are currently at 50%, while medical co-payments are at 20%. However, a Medicare parity bill passed last summer, so in 2014, mental health co-payments will be reduced to 20%. This bill was vetoed by President Bush, but the Congress overwhelmingly overrode the veto.
Forty-three (43) states have enacted parity laws. While some of these laws provide for strong parity protections, most are not as comprehensive as the new federal law.
Parity will not effect the millions of Americans who are still uninsured.