If you are employed in the state of Missouri, there are a few things about Missouri employee benefits that you need to know. If your health insurance coverage has no provision for mental health related problems, there is nothing you can do about it as it is solely on the employer’s discretion whether to provide for such problems or not. But if you are fortunate enough to have a plan that covers mental health, there are laws that govern how much you should get for treatment, if ever need be.
Up till the year 1996, an employer who chose to provide mental health coverage could decide him or herself how much should be allocated to such treatment. Sometimes this resulted in strange disparity between the amounts designated for physical problems compared with the psychological or mental problems. An insurance plan could provide up to a hundred thousand dollars for surgery, but only a thousand for mental health. As a consequence, an employee could hardly afford counseling, let alone detailed treatment.
The Mental Health Parity Act was enacted in 1996, to ensure that mental health treatments must receive parity with other types of treatment. This resulted in employee health insurance providing the same amount of insurance for both physical and mental health problems. Consequently, an employee could receive comprehensive counseling or even surgery for his mental problems, if they ever arise.
At the time of its enactment, the MHPA was supposed to expire in 2001. But this law has undergone several amendments. In February 2007 it was extended up to December 2007. Judging from the history, one can safely assume that this law is going to stay for some time in future.
The Employee Benefit Security Administration or EBSA is a government body created to enforce the employees’ benefits and pension plans. Currently, more than a hundred and fifty million employees are covered by EBSA.
An extension in the expiration of an existing law will impact Missouri employee benefit plans.
This ruling was issued by the US Employee Benefits Security Administration, also known as EBSA. EBSA is the agency of the federal government that ensures businesses comply with pension and health insurance laws. US EBSA covers most businesses and applies to over 150 million workers in the US.
This ruling extends the expiration date on the Mental Health Parity Act, also known as MHPA. Signed into law in 1996, this law was originally due to expire at the end of September 2001. Instead, the expiration date has been extended 5 times. Under the recent ruling, the act is due to expire on December 31, 2007.
The Mental Health Parity Act impacts group health insurance plans that contain coverage for mental health treatments. Before this act, insurance companies could legally set one maximum benefit amount for surgery and other medical treatments and then set another maximum benefit amount for mental health treatments.
Under MHPA, the limits for these treatments must be the same. In other words, if a group health insurance plan has a lifetime maximum benefit of $250,000 for medical treatments and surgery, then the lifetime maximum benefit for mental health treatments must also be $250,000. Not only do the lifetime maximum benefit amounts have to be equal, the annual maximum benefit amounts must be equal as well.
Mental health treatments can include visits to a licensed therapist, a psychologist, or a psychiatrist. In addition, rehab stays for drug and alcohol abuse can be covered. Also included are stays in a mental hospital for conditions such as depression and schizophrenia.
If a business has a group health insurance plan that does not cover mental heath treatments, MHPA has no impact. This law only applies to group health insurance plans that have coverage for mental health treatments.