MENTAL HEALTH CARE: Many Employers Violate Parity Law
Thousands of employers are violating a law requiring insurance coverage for mental illnesses to equal coverage for physical illnesses, the New York Times reports. Further, General Accounting Office investigators charge that even those employers who technically comply with the 1996 Mental Health Parity Act have found ways to circumvent the regulations. Under the law, group health plans are prohibited from setting annual or lifetime limits on mental health care that are lower than limits for physical health care. The law excuses businesses with 50 or fewer employees. The GAO surveyed employers in 26 states and found that 14% were not in compliance with the law, while many that were in compliance continued to find ways to restrict access to mental health by limiting the number of doctors visits or days of hospital care rather than the actual dollar amount. Noncompliance rates were not linked to the employer size, industry or geographic location. Investigators concluded that the law has not increased access to mental health care as intended. Lawmakers requested the study in hopes of expanding the law. Results of the survey will be presented today at a Senate Committee on Health, Educations, Labor and Pension hearing (Pear, 5/18).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.