The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) (P.L. 110-343) (pdf) and Michelle’s Law (P.L. 110-381) (pdf), two laws that impact employer-sponsored group health plans, will take effect for plan years beginning on or after October 3, 2009 and October 9, 2009, respectively. Calendar year plans have until January 1, 2010 to comply with both laws.
The MHPAEA requires private group health benefit plans that provide mental health and/or substance use disorder benefits to offer them on a basis equivalent to the medical and surgical benefits provided. In order to ensure coverage parity, the act imposes several plan design requirements upon group health benefit plans that offer mental health and/or substance use disorder benefits. The bill exempts certain small group health benefit plans and those that would incur a particular level of increased costs for all benefits due to compliance with the parity rule. These exemptions are specific and narrow.
Michelle’s Law similarly imposes certain coverage requirements on group health benefit plans. In essence, this law extends the health plan benefits coverage to a dependent child who is over the age of 18 and enrolled in college and would otherwise lose coverage in the event a medically necessary leave of absence would cause the child to lose full-time student status.
For more information on these laws, see Littler’s ASAPs: Equal Mental Health and Substance Use Benefits Realized by Russell D. Chapman and Andrea Jackson; and Michelle's Law Extends Group Health Benefit Plan Eligibility for Dependent Students on a Medically Necessary Leave of Absence by Steven J. Friedman and Andrea Jackson.