Many employers now offer group health insurance plans that include coverage for mental health treatments.
If they do, the coverage limits for those treatments must be equal to the limits on physical health coverage. The law requires it, whether the treatments are therapy, counseling, or stays in a mental health center or the mental health wing of a hospital.
West Virginia employee benefits are covered by the requirement that has been in place since 1996. The law has been extended 5 times since its enactment, and in February of 2007 it was extended until December 31 of 2007.
The law is called the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996. It requires that, if your group health insurance plan includes mental health treatment, the coverage limits must be the same as for other treatments such as surgery. The MHPA was originally scheduled to run out on September 30 of 2001, but the 5 extensions have kept it alive since then. Extensions are likely to continue in the future.
Before the law was passed, wide differences between physical and mental health coverage limits were allowed. A group health insurance plan, for example, could put a $100,000 annual limit on surgery, but a mere $1,500 limit on mental health treatment costs.
Enforcing this law is an agency known as the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA). Once charged only with investigating violations of the pension law, its duties have been expanded to include enforcement of laws, like the MHPA, regulating employees’ group insurance plans. Employee benefit plans, of course, account for most Americans’ insurance coverage. In fact, more than 150 million workers receive such coverage. Their plans are monitored by the EBSA.
While the law guarantees parity, it does not require an employer’s group insurance plan to include mental health treatment. The MHPA only requires that, if a plan does include mental health treatment, its coverage limits be equal to those of physical health treatments.
West Virginia 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.
As the name suggests, it assures that all group health plans include a mental health component that is equal in coverage limits to their limits on corresponding medical/surgical treatment coverage.
The MHPA has been given new life five times through amendments, since its original expiration date of September 31, 2001. That was because the original bill, signed into law in 1996, included what is called a “sunset clause,” effectively causing it to expire unless extended.
The bill impacts the roughly 150 million workers who are covered by group health insurance plans. Before the MHPA, health plans could have ceilings on mental health treatment coverage that were much lower than those on medical and surgical treatment. For example, a plan might have a $100,000 yearly limit on medical and surgical procedures, but just $5,000 or $10,000 for mental health treatment. Under MHPA, that is against the law.
Some of what is included in mental health treatment coverage is:
Stays in rehabilitation facilities for drug and alcohol abuse problems.
Stays in psychiatric centers, or mental hospitals, for treatment of a wide variety of illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Visits to mental health professionals. These include licensed therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists.
The Employee Benefit Security Administration (EBSA) is the enforcing federal agency. It was originally created in 1974 to oversee enforcement of the Employee retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974. Since then it has gained sub-cabinet level status and its mandate includes health care as well as pension oversight. The upgrade came in 2003. It is now under the auspices of an Assistant secretary of Labor.
Start up a business in West Virginia, or buy the business of someone else, and you are expected to report yourself to the West Virginia unemployment insurance system. In West Virginia’s case, you have to report yourself by submitting a form called the Employer’s Initial Statement, or Form UC-201-B. This Initial Statement must have some important info on it, including the official and full name of your business, as well as the street address of your headquarters.
If you are the sole proprietor of the business, and your name is actually the name of the company, then your Initial Statement can just have your name on it, as well as your social security number and home address. As for partnerships, every partner must have their name and signature on it, as well as their social security number and address. For corporations, each and every officer must have their name, title, social security number, and address on the form.
In the event that you have acquired someone else’s business and are submitting an Employer’s Initial Statement, you must also include a Supplement Form, also called the Form UC-201-BS, Statement for Transfer of Business. This form must be signed by you, the new business owner, as well as by the former business owner.
Then from all of this info—from the Initial Statement and the Supplement form—the state can decide whether or not you are liable as an employer in the state of West Virginia to pay unemployment insurance taxes.
When you are determined to be liable, it is then up to you to keep accurate records on your payroll. This includes info on the time frame for each payroll payments, the place of employment of every employee, the amount of time they were scheduled to work, how much they actually worked, their wage rates, as well as on their social security numbers, addresses, time off, and length of employment.
An employing unit is an individual, partnership, association, corporation, governmental entity, or other type of organization that has in its employ one or more individuals performing services within West Virginia. Such employing units are required to post West Virginia Unemployment Insurance posters in a visible location for their employees.
Every employing unit is required to submit an Employer’s Initial Statement when beginning business in West Virginia or succeeding to the business of another employing unit in this state. The Initial Statement must bear the exact business name of the employing unit and the street address of the business headquarters. A post office box number or general delivery address is not sufficient.
If the employing unit is an individual, the Initial Statement must show the individual’s name, social security number, and home address. If the employing unit is a partnership, each individual partner must sign the statement and indicate social security number and place of residence. If the employing unit is a corporation, the individual name, title, social security number, and residence of each officer must be entered.
An Initial Statement submitted by a political subdivision or government agency must bear the signature and title of a duly authorized individual.
An employing unit is subject to the Unemployment Compensation Law and is required to make payments into the Unemployment Compensation Fund if it comes within any one of the following classifications:
1. Has in employment subject to the law one or more individuals for some portion of a day in each of 20 different weeks of the calendar year. (The weeks of employment need not be consecutive, nor need the same individual be employed each day.)
2. Pays total wages of $1,500 or more in any calendar quarter in the current or preceding calendar year.
3. Acquires the organization, trade or business, or substantially all the assets of a liable employer.
4. Pays cash wages of $1,000 or more in any calendar quarter for domestic service in a private home, local college club or local chapter of a college fraternity or sorority.
5. Has in agricultural employment ten or more individuals for some portion of a day in each of 20 different weeks of the calendar year.
6. Pays for agricultural labor cash wages of $20,000 or more in any calendar quarter.
7. Becomes a liable employer under any federal unemployment tax act.
8. Is a state or local government agency, entity or instrumentality meeting any of the above conditions.
9. Certain religious, charitable, educational, or other organizations classified as nonprofit under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, having in employment four or more individuals for some portion of a day in each of 20 different weeks of a calendar year.
Only work which is classified as `employment’ under the law, as stated in West Virginia Unemployment Insurance posters is considered in determining whether an employing unit has incurred liability, except for agricultural employers. When determining the liability of an agricultural employer, the wages and number of alien agricultural workers are used. Among the services excluded from employment are those for an institution operated exclusively for religious purposes.
Every state must have some type of unemployment insurance law that businesses must abide by. In West Virginia, I found that the unemployment insurance benefits provided by businesses and the state are in the low-to-mid range compared to what other states offer.
In order to qualify for unemployment benefits in West Virginia, you have to have earned at least $2,200 in wages over two quarters. The minimum dollar amount that you can receive each week that you are on unemployment is $24 and the maximum dollar amount is $366. You can, however, stay on unemployment for a prolonged amount of time – 26 weeks, or half of a year.
In order to qualify to receive unemployment insurance benefits, you have to prove that you were first employed and that you lose your job through no fault of your own. For example, you have to have been laid off or the company that you worked for has to have closed.
There are some circumstances in which your employer may not have unemployment insurance. For example, you may have worked for a company with three people, in which case, it would have been too small to receive the benefits. However, if you have worked for a company that has four or more employees, your employer is required to have unemployment insurance. The employer can get this program through the State or he can fund it on his or her own.
Once you begin receiving unemployment benefits, you have to continue to look for work. You must apply to multiple jobs (2) each week. In the event that you are offered a position, you are advised to take the position. If you decline the job opportunity, you may not be able to continue to receive unemployment benefits. You may, however, receive a portion of the unemployment benefits if you accept a part time job.