Many employers and service members have questions about what happens to their health insurance under the latest updated federal and Alaska USERRA regulations. When a member of the Reserve or National Guard is called to active service, they qualify for military health care after 30 days.
However, USERRA guarantees soldiers the right to retain health care coverage through their civilian employers for up to 24 months, if they so wish. All soldiers should be covered by their civilian health care plan for the first 30 days of active service. If soldiers decide to continue the health care insurance through their civilian employers, they have to pay both the employee’s and the employer’s share of the premium, plus any processing fees.
Changes to the law cover a number of important issues. The Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, also known as VETS, has released the final rules pertaining to USERRA, so employers may want to verify that their Alaska USERRA posters are current.
Alaska workers are impacted by a few of the changes to the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, also known as USERRA. Changes made recently to this act impact federal government employees. These employees can now file claims with VETS, which is a US Department of Labor division.
The updated regulations for USERRA stress again that, for up to five years, the civilian jobs of veterans and members of the military are protected. This includes members of the Navy, Army, and Air Force Reserve. The time period of five years is cumulative though, so if an employee first serves two years, then later serves three years, the time limit of five years is reached.
USERRA pays special attention to disabled veterans. Reasonable accommodations should be made by employers to account for the disabilities of veterans. In addition, if a service member is injured, an additional two years are added to the amount of time this individual has to return to work. The additional two years for injuries includes injuries received on active duty and during training.
The Mental Health Parity Act, also known as the MHPA, has recently been extended through December 31, 2007. This is an important bill that relates to the insurance cover of mental health in relation to the cover of other medical conditions.
This will have significant impact on workers benefit plans including Alaska employee benefit plans.
The original Mental Health Parity Act, has a so called “sunset clause” that the bill expired on September 31, 2001. But since then it has been amended five times, extending the expiration date.
The Mental Health Parity Act requires employee benefit plans need to provide the same amount of cover for mental health as it does for other medical conditions, including surgery.
This means that it is no longer legal for mental health cover to be capped at a lower rate than other medical conditions. For example, in the past it was possible for plans to provide $250,000 of cover for health and medical conditions, but only $15,000 for the treatment of mental health conditions.
Under the Mental Health Parity Act, the amount of cover must be equal. But, importantly, it should be noted that the Act does not apply to all group health insurance plans. It only applies to those plans that cover mental health as well as other medical conditions.
Cover for mental conditions can be used for various treatments. These might include a visit to a licensed psychiatrist, therapies or psychologist. Hospital stays in a mental health wing are also covered. This might include treatments for schizophrenia, depression or post-traumatic stress order, as well as many other treatments. Rehab for alcohol and drug related dependency is also covered.
The federal agency that is responsible for overseeing the laws relating to pensions and health insurance are complied with is the US Employee Benefits Security Administration. The Mental Health Parity Act applies to over 150 million workers through the United States.