Mental health treatments are to be treated on a par with other medical conditions according to the Mental Heath Parity Act or MHPA, which has been extended through December 31, 2007.
This will have a considerable impact on New York employee benefit plans. But what does this mean for the average worker?
If you receive employee benefit plans that cover medical and mental health, it means that both areas have to be covered equally.
This means that mental health treatments can no longer be capped at amounts significantly lower than those allowed for the treatment of other medical condition, including surgery.
A simply example is that, say for instance that your plan caps mental health cover at $15,000 and other medical conditions are capped at $250,000 then this is no longer legal.
Note that this only applies to plans that provide coverage for mental health treatments. It does not mean that plans have to cover mental health in cases where it was not covered before the Mental Health Parity Act.
The MHPA was previously signed into law in 1996, and included a “sunset clause” that meant that the bill would expire in September 31, 2001. Since that date, 5 amendments have meant that the expiration date has been extended.
This ruling applies to over 150 million workers throughout the United States, according to the Employee Benefits security Administration that is responsible for ensuring that health insurance laws are not violated.
Mental Health conditions that the Act covers include stays in a rehabilitation center for drug or alcohol dependency as well as visits to a licensed therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist. It also includes hospital admission to the mental health wing for conditions such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Workers covered by the Mental Health Parity Act need no longer worry so much about the cost of seeking out treatment.