Bush Inks Bill Extending MHPA Sunset

December 29, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The Mental Health Parity Act (MHPA) sunset date has been extended for a year until December 31, 2004 as a result of a bill recently signed into law by President Bush.

>The Mental Health Parity Reauthorization Act of 2003 (MHPRA) extends the MHPA provisions of ERISA and the Public Health Service Act, but not the Internal Revenue Code, according to a news report from Thompson Publishing. The Tax Relief Extension Act of 2003 (HR 3521), which would extend the Code’s MHPA provisions through December 31, 2004, passed the House November 20 and was referred to the Senate Finance Committee December 9.

>The MHPRA does not make substantive changes to the MHPA, which mandates that group health plans providing mental health benefits may not impose annual or lifetime dollar limits on mental health benefits that are lower than those for medical benefits. The law exempts employers with 50 or fewer employers, as are health plans whose costs would be increased more than 1% by complying.

The Senate is expected in early 2004 to consider legislation expanding MHPA to require parity in deductibles, copayments and treatment limitations, under a commitment that the bill’s sponsors obtained from Senate leadership. The Senator Paul Wellstone Mental Health Equitable Treatment Act of 2003 (S486) has been pending in committee since its introduction in February 2003.