e3 Financial News Archive For July / August 2009
Mental Health Parity Act & Group Health Plans
Aug 13, 2009
On October 3, 2008, the President signed the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA). Key changes made by MHPAEA, which is generally effective for plan years beginning after October 3, 2009, include the following:
• If a group health plan includes medical/surgical benefits and mental health benefits, the financial requirements (e.g., deductibles and co-payments) and treatment limitations (e.g., number of visits or days of coverage) that apply to mental health benefits must be no more restrictive than the predominant financial requirements or treatment limitations that apply to substantially all medical/surgical benefits;
• If a group health plan includes medical/surgical benefits and substance use disorder benefits, the financial requirements and treatment limitations that apply to substance use disorder benefits must be no more restrictive than the predominant financial requirements or treatment limitations that apply to substantially all medical/surgical benefits;
• Mental health benefits and substance use disorder benefits may not be subject to any separate cost sharing requirements or treatment limitations that only apply to such benefits;
• If a group health plan includes medical/surgical benefits and mental health benefits, and the plan provides for out of network medical/surgical benefits, it must provide for out of network mental health benefits;
• If a group health plan includes medical/surgical benefits and substance use disorder benefits, and the plan provides for out of network medical/surgical benefits, it must provide for out of network substance use disorder benefits;
• Standards for medical necessity determinations and reasons for any denial of benefits relating to mental health benefits and substance use disorder benefits must be made available upon request to plan participants;
• The parity requirements for the existing law (regarding annual and lifetime dollar limits) will continue and will be extended to substance use disorder benefits.
Federal and State law – Generally, large employers with a group health plan must comply with the Federal parity requirements as well as state laws, whereas small employers (2-50 employees) with a group health plan will only be potentially subject to state laws. A state law that requires more favorable treatment of mental health benefits under health insurance coverage offered by issuers (generally, health insurance companies) would not be preempted by the provisions of MHPA and the interim rules. The combined effect of Federal and State rules will vary from state to state.
Please note the following can opt out of the Mental Health Parity Act.
A nonfederal government employer that provides self-funded group health plan coverage to its employees (coverage that is not provided through an insurer) may elect to exempt its plan (opt-out) from the requirements of MHPA and MHPAEA by issuing a notice of opt-out to enrollees at the time of enrollment and on an annual basis thereafter. The employer must also file the opt-out notification with CMS.
For more information on your state, contact the Department of Insurance (DOI) for the state in which you reside. Ask DOI about mental health parity and state laws mandating that mental health benefits be included in the plan. You may also go to www.ncsl.org/programs/health/Mentalben.htm for additional State specific information.
For more information on the MHPA go to the following Websites:
• CMS - links to the MHPA statute. Click on “The Mental Health Parity Act” in the left column and scroll down to the statute.
• For more information on the MHPA statute, regulation, fact sheet and other publications, please click here and scroll down to the MHPA.
Universal Health Care Legislation Advanced by Committee
Jul 16, 2009
The Senate committee on health care has advanced a milestone measure for Obama’s plan.
President Barack Obama’s key priority of providing universal healthcare to the public was voted on by the Senate health committee Wednesday. As reported by the Associated Press (AP), the vote by the committee advanced a $600 billion measure that would require Americans to obtain health insurance, and employers to help supply the rate. The bill also calls for government financial help with premiums for those who will have trouble with the costs. However, the complete plan is still under development.
Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut is quoted in the report as stating of the bill, “This time we’ve produced legislation that by and large I think the American people want.”
As noted by the AP, House Democratic leaders pledged to meet President Obama’s health care legislation goal by August earlier this week. Leaders are reportedly offering a $1.5 trillion plan, which would make healthcare both a first time right and responsibility for citizens of the United States.
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