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Mental Health Parity Plan Advances

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Employers who offer both medical and mental health coverage to employees may soon need to guarantee similar benefits for both plans. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee recently approved bipartisan legislation to provide employees with greater access to mental health benefits. The proposal has been endorsed by SHRM in a letter of support, as well as by other major employer groups and mental health advocates.

The Mental Health Parity Act of 2007 (MHPA), jointly-sponsored by Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY), Pete Domenici (R-NM), and Ted Kennedy (D-MA), would not require group health plans to provide mental health coverage. Rather, if a health plan offers mental health coverage, it must ensure that the financial requirements and treatment limitations applied to mental health benefits are no more restrictive than those relating to medical and surgical benefits. These parity requirements would apply to group health plans with 50 or more employees.

As passed by the Committee, the MHPA would preempt state mental health parity standards regarding financial requirements and treatment limitations. However, it would not preempt state laws that require mental health benefits be covered.

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