The Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act went into effect  on or before Oct. 3, 2009. For more detailed information please see the BHM white paper “Mental Health Parity Preparedness: opportunity for managed care organizations”.  Stay tuned to learn more about the sweeping mental health parity rules changes. So, how is mental health parity changing and why are these changes so innovative?

Below is a timeline for Federal Mental Health Parity:

1.?The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Act (WDA) was passed on Oct. 3, 2008 ?This act was passed as a component of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) signed by President George W. Bush ? .

2.  The law was initially slated to go into effect on Oct. 3, 2009.

3.  Congress deferred the effective date to Jan. 2010 for plans which would have otherwise been covered in 2009 .

4. On Jan. 29th 2009 the IRS (Treasury), Labor, and Health & Human Services, released the interim final guidelines for this act. ?The new “rules” go into effect on July 1st 2010.

The law was 13 pages but the rules are 154 pages.  There are going to be many very significant changes when these rules go int effect.  This will create both challenges as well as opportunities for both healthcare providers as well as healthcare insurers.  BHM’s Mike Forrester will be presenting a number of target webinars to assist organizations in reducing the risk and maximizing the potential of this new legislation.

Until you are able to join Mike Forrester at one of his webinars below are a few tips to begin the preparation:

Keys for Parity Preparation • Review organization history of health care coverage patterns

• Evaluate integration of physical and behavioral health within your current organization • Procure relationships with outside vendors if in-house care is not possible

• Carefully reevaluate your plans provider network • Evaluate potential changes in the following areas:

  1. Removal of  limits
  2. Change in co-payments
  3. Change in insurance
  4. Covered diagnosis
  5. Pharmacy Benefits

No matter what the future holds, mental health parity rules are truly at a crossroads.