North Dakota employee benefit plans will continue to include mental health treatment coverage on a par with medical and surgical coverage thanks to the extension of the bill known as MHPA.
The bill is the Mental Health Parity Act. It has been extended to December 31 of 2007 after being signed into law by the President.
The extension involves North Dakota employee benefit plans. The law is called the Mental Health Parity Act (MHPA). Before it was originally signed into existence in 1996, health insurance plans could legally have large discrepancies in their coverage limits for physical or mental health treatments. For example, physical health treatment coverage limits might be $100,000 yearly, but mental health limits could be one-tenth or even one-twentieth of that. Such discrepancies are no longer legal.
The original bill included what is called a “sunset clause.” That means the bill had an automatic expiration date. In this case, it was September 31 of 2001. Five amendments since then have assured its continuance beyond the “sunset” date.
The agency overseeing compliance with the laws affecting group health plans is called EBSA. That stands for the Employee Benefits Security Administration. The agency was set up in 1974. At that time, its mandate was to enforce the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of that same year.
Mental health treatments covered typically include stays in either the mental health wing of a medical hospital or a mental hospital, or psychiatric center for ailments like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or schizophrenia; time in a rehabilitation facility (“rehab”) for treatment of drug or alcohol dependency issues; and visits to psychologists, licensed therapists, or psychiatrists.
The new expiration date of the Mental Health Parity Act is December 31, 2007.
The EBSA was created in 1974 for the sole purpose of enforcing pension issues through the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA. Since its inception, it has gone through a number of name changes. In 1986, it became the Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration (PWBA). Then in 2003, it became a sub-cabinet level agency overseen by an Assistant Labor Secretary. Its new mandate includes dealing equally with violations of health care laws and pension laws.