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Feds Seek Mental Health Parity Comments

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Government officials are asking for advice from the public about how to go about implementing the new Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.

The Internal Revenue Service, the Employee Benefits Security Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services published a joint “request for information” in the Federal Register.

The agencies will use the comments in future rulemaking, officials say in the notice.

The Act toughened existing parity standards and added a new definition of substance abuse disorder benefits.

Under the provisions of the Act, group plans that offer mental health benefits may not impose different limits on mental health benefits than they impose on other types of medical care. Deductibles, co-payments and other plan features may be no more restrictive for mental health care than for other types of care.

The agencies that posted the request for information are asking for comments about the policies, procedures and practices of group health plans and health insurers that might be affected by the MHPAEA.

“What direct or indirect costs would result?” officials ask. “What direct or indirect benefits would result? Which stakeholders will be impacted by such benefits and costs?”

The agencies also ask whether there might be additional types of costs and benefits for employers with fewer than 100 plan participants, and it asks about the effects that complying with the MHPAEA might have on the paperwork burden.

The agencies go on to ask for information about existing restrictions on mental health care and other types of medical care; variations in coverage levels within each class of benefits; MHPAEA provisions that might be in need of clarification; out-of-network mental coverage; and model notice needs.

Comments are due May 28.


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