Any insurer that decides to include mental health coverage in their plan must provide the same benefits as it does with other types of medical treatments. That is required by the Mental Health Parity Act, or MHPA, enforced by the EBSA.
The MHPA is very important for Delaware employee benefit plans, because will be valid for some time. The MHPA was initially approved in 1996, and included an expiration date of September 21, 2001. But, the expiration has been postponed 5 times. The most recent extension determined that the law is in effect until December 31, 2007.
Prior to 1996, when there wasn’t any law in force, a health insurance plan could give mental health treatments secondary status. A plan might include coverage of $80,000 per year for surgery but $10,000 or less for mental health treatments. The MHPA makes this practice illegal, and any insurer that includes mental health treatments in their plan must cover them on the same basis as other plans.
What are considered mental health treatments under healthcare plans? In general, the category includes appointments with therapists, psychologists or psychiatrists. They also cover treatment for alcohol use or drug dependency, which frequently require periods of rehabilitation. Depression, schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress, are other ailments frequently covered. Many cases involve admission to mental clinics or mental health divisions of hospitals.
The Employee Benefits Security Administration, or EBSA, is the federal agency that enforces the MHPA. In the US, more than 150 million workers have health insurance under plans that the EBSA oversees.
The EBSA has changed its name several times, and their objectives were adjusted from time to time. The agency was created in 1974, when the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA, was approved, with the initial purpose of enforcing this law. In those years, the agency’s name was the Pension and Welfare Benefits Program. In January 1986, the agency’s name changed yet again, and it became known as the Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration, or PWBA. In 2003, the agency received its current name, which reflects the agency’s purpose. Now the EBSA must deal with infringements of the laws regarding both pensions and healthcare.