Many people have questions on the coverage for mental health treatments under their health insurance plans. A recent extension of the federal MHPA law addresses those concerns.
Today, is illegal for a health insurance plan to pay a lower amount for mental health treatments, than it pays for other health treatments. That is determined by the Mental Health Parity Act, known as the MHPA, which was approved in 1996. Prior to 1996, a health insurance plan could pay $85,000 per year for surgery and only pay $5,000 per year for mental health treatment. Today that is not permitted, and would be illegal.
Under the federal and Tennessee employee benefit laws, if an insurance plan includes mental health coverage, it must pay the same as it pays for medical treatments.
The MHPA was originally set to expire on September 30, 2001, but that deadline has been postponed 5 times. In February, the MHPA was extended one more time, and the new expiration date was set to December 31, 2007. All the indications are that the law will be extended again.
The Employee Benefits Security Administration, or ESBA, is the federal agency that handles violations of law concerning health care and pensions. The ESBA oversees plans covers more than 150 million people across the country. The agency controls the execution of the law regarding employee benefits and pension plans.
For those that ask if there is any law that obliges a health insurer to cover any mental health treatments, the answer is “No.” Some employers offer plans that include mental health treatments such as psychiatric care or therapy, but there are many plans that do not cover them. MHPA determines that if mental health benefits are covered, they must be at the same level of coverage as medical treatments. However, they do not require that mental health treatments be covered.