MENTAL HEALTH: FEHBP Insurers Must Offer Parity
The Office of Personnel Management has directed insurance plans covering federal workers under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program to provide equal coverage for physical and mental health services, the Washington Post reports. Reflecting a key goal of the Clinton administration health care agenda, an April 11 letter to nearly 300 participating insurance carriers read: "We expect your proposals for 2001 to eliminate differences in benefits levels and limitations between coverage for mental health and substance abuse services and medical, surgical and hospital services." To achieve parity, insurance providers must provide identical coverage in co-payments, deductibles and the number of allowable office visits. Insurance plans that restrict physical health service coverage may also restrict mental health benefits. OPM and insurance companies have been negotiating parity issues since June 1999, when President Clinton called on OPM to provide equal coverage in the 2001 contract year. Mental health experts predict that the expansion of mental health coverage will raise FEHBP's overall costs by about 2% next year (Barr, 5/25).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.