Mental Health Parity: A Leap Forward

Article excerpt

Many health care plans now cover mental health disorders on terms that are on par with cov- erage for physical conditions. This trend took another leap forward in November 2013 with new federal rules on parity for mental health and substance abuse disorders.

Mental illnesses have long been a leading cause of disability in major industrial- ized countries, directly affecting the workplace through employee absence and lost productivity.

According to the World Health Organization, mental, neurological and substance abuse disorders accounted for 13 per- cent of the total global disease burden in 2004, the latest year for which figures are available. Depression alone was responsible for 4.3 per- cent of the global burden of disease. Between 2011 and 2030, the worldwide economic toll of mental illnesses is expected to be $16.3 trillion, according to a 2011 report from the World Economic Forum and the Har- vard School of Public Health.

Many national health care systems around the world have already integrated mental health care into their overall health care plans. In the U.S., the approach to mental health benefits and care is evolving.

The new federal rules implement the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addic- tion Equity Act of 2008. The law requires group health plans and health insurance issuers to ensure that finan- cial requirements (such as co-pays and deductibles) and treatment limitations (such as caps on doctor visits) applicable to benefits for mental health or substance abuse disorders are no more restrictive than limits on medical and surgical benefits. The parity law applies to self-insured and fully insured health plans sponsored by employers with more than 50 employees. …