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The Wellstone-Domenici Parity Act

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Updated July 05, 2009

Definition: In October 2008, the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 was enacted into law by President Bush. This is the closest to actual parity that federal law has mandated to date. In summary, the law requires that any health insurance plan that provides mental health or addiction coverage cannot have any requirements more restrictive than those applied to all medical and surgical benefits covered by the plan. Deductibles, copayments, out-of-pockets expenses, etc. should be the same for all benefits. All health insurance plans must be in compliance by January 1, 2010.

It is important to note the law does allow for some caveats. First, mental health and addictions coverage is not mandated; a plan does not have to offer this type of coverage. Also, group health plans with less than 50 employees are exempt. Finally, there is a cost exemption. If, after six months of meeting the requirements of this law, a company can demonstrate and have certified by a licensed actuary that the costs of providing this coverage are excessive, their group health plan can be exempted. Excessive is defined as an increase of the actual total costs of coverage by two percent during the first year or one percent in subsequent years.

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