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House Weighs Giving Parity To Mental Health

Mental health parity has resurfaced as a legislative initiative. The U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee's Subcommittee on Employer-Employee Relations held a hearing on March 13 on the legislation.

The bill would require that insurers' level of mental health coverage be on a par with physical health coverage. Access and costs, including deductibles, would be the same.

This is an expansion of the mental health parity law passed in 1996 that prohibited insurers from instituting annual and lifetime payment ceilings for mental health benefits, though the law's wording allowed payers to retain limits on the number of annual visits to mental health practitioners. Eliminating the payment ceiling had the greatest effect on indemnity insurers, which, unlike managed care plans, do not have the flexibility to limit visits to providers.

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