Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act

How does the new mental health parity law affect my insurance coverage?

In 2008, Congress passed the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act taking a great step forward in the decade-plus fight to end insurance discrimination against those seeking treatment for mental health and substance use disorders. This law requires health insurance to cover both mental and physical health equally. Under this law, insurance companies can no longer arbitrarily limit the number of hospital days or outpatient treatment sessions, or assign higher co-payments or deductibles for those in need of psychological services.

The 2008 act closes several of the loopholes left by the 1996 Mental Health Parity Act and extends equal coverage to all aspects of health insurance plans, including day and visit limits, dollar limits, coinsurance, co-payments, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums. It preserves existing state parity and consumer protection laws while extending protection of mental health services to 82 million Americans not protected by state laws. The bill also ensures mental health coverage for both in network and out-of-network services.

Research shows that physical health is directly connected to mental health and millions of Americans know that suffering from a mental health disorder can be as frightening and debilitating as any major physical health disorder. Passage of this law will lead the health care system in the United States to start treating the whole person, both mind and body.

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