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September 21, 2007
Senate OKs Mental Health Parity Bill

The Senate has unanimously approved legislation that would require parity when group health plans provide benefits for both phsyical health and mental health.

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The Mental Health Parity Act of 2007 would amend the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and the Public Health Service Act to require group health plans that provide both medical and surgical benefits and mental health benefits to ensure that:

  1. The financial requirements applicable to such mental health benefits are no more restrictive than those of substantially all medical and surgical benefits covered by the plan, including deductibles and co-payments;
  2. The treatment limitations applicable to such mental health benefits are no more restrictive than those applied to substantially all medical and surgical benefits covered by the plan, including limits on the frequency of treatments or similar limits on the scope or duration of treatment.

The legislation would also prohibit the group health plan from establishing separate cost sharing requirements for mental health benefits.

The bill would exempt any group health plan:

  1. For an employer with 50 employees or fewer; or
  2. Whose costs of compliance with this legislation increase the total costs of coverage by more than a percentage specified in the legislation.

The Senate approved the legislation more than 10 years after passing the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996 (MHPA), which was signed into law in September of that year. The law requires that annual or lifetime dollar limits on mental health benefits be no lower than any such dollar limits for medical and surgical benefits offered by a group health plan or health insurance issuer offering coverage in connection with a group health plan.

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