Insurance companies must cover mental and physical illnesses equally, under a provision included in the so-called bailout legislation signed into law October 3 by President Bush (Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, H.R. 1424).
The provision is the culmination of years of effort by legislators to expand upon the 1996 Mental Health Parity Act, says Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-New Mexico), who co-authored the 1996 Act and was a lead sponsor of the current parity legislation.
"No longer will we allow mental health to be treated as a stepchild in the health care system," Domenici said. "If you have insurance, then your mental health care must be equal to the benefits you get for any other disease."
The new law expands parity to include deductibles, co-payments, out-of-pocket expenses, co-insurance, covered hospital stays, and covered out-patient visits. Companies with less than 50 employees are exempt.