Do you know what your Nevada employee benefits will guarantee you when it comes to coverage limits on mental health treatment such as therapy, counseling, or psychiatric center treatment? Do you know, for example, whether the health insurance package provided by your employer must include mental health coverage?
The fact is that the law doesn’t require your health plan to include any kind of mental health treatment. That means no therapy, counseling, or even outpatient or inpatient treatment in a psychiatric center or the mental health section of a regular hospital.
But if your health plan does cover mental health treatments, then something called “parity” is guaranteed by law. Simply put, it means that, whatever the policy sets as a limit on physical health coverage, like surgery, that same limit must apply to mental health coverage.
There is a government agency to enforce this regulation. It’s called the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA). You are likely to be covered by the EBSA – more than 150,000 U.S. employees are. The EBSA formerly dealt only with violations of the laws governing pensions. Now its responsibilities have been extended to health care.
The EBSA is charged with enforcing the Mental Health Parity Act (MHPA). The bill authorizing the MHPA was passed in 1996 and was originally scheduled to phase out on September 30 of 2001. Since then, however, it has been extended 5 times by amendments, and the most recent extension (in February of 2007) kept it activated until December 31 of the same year.
Before the MHPA was passed, an insurer could offer one limit for physical health treatment coverage and another, much lower, yearly limit on mental health care. As an example, a plan paying a maximum of $100,000 for surgery could pay only a fraction of that – $1,500 a year, say – for mental health coverage.