Newtown & Mental Health Parity

January 25, 2013

Authored by: Chris Rylands

Last week, the White House released its plan for legal actions it will recommend to try and ensure that a tragedy like the one in Newtown does not recur (although the video from President Obama’s weekly address on this issue does not mention mental health services).  Much of the debate since that announcement has predictably been focused on the Second Amendment issues, but there was one benefits-related point buried near the end of the White House’s plan: finalizing the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) regulations.  The plan says the regulations will be issued next month and the administration has already taken the step of advising Medicaid directors of the applicable ability of MHPAEA to their programs.

The interim final MHPAEA rules were issued in 2010 and since then, the DoL has issued some FAQs (here, here, here, and here), often in connection with FAQs issued for health reform.  As this Politico article notes, the focus on health reform has been at least partially to blame for the delay.  But even once the rules are finalized, there could be gaps if individuals cannot find providers who take insurance, as noted in this New York Times piece.  And of course, in some cases, there is still, unfortunately, a perceived stigma with seeking mental health services.

For their part, plan sponsors may want to consider promoting the availability of mental health services, to the extent they are available under their plans.  This may help remove some of the stigma and also allow employees who feel they need help to know what they can do to seek it.

Related Links

EBSA Webpage on MHPAEA