Bush Signs Mental Health Parity Extension

December 4, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - President Bush has signed a bill (HR 5716) extending by a year a 1996 law requiring that group health plans provide equal coverage for mental health problems as they do for physical ailments.

The sunset date of the 1996 Mental Health Parity Act (Pub. L. No. 104-204) is now December 31, 2003, according to the BNA, a Washington-based legal publisher.

Senator Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico) and other lawmakers are expected to continue their efforts to expand the mental health parity law.

 They contend that loopholes in the 1996 statute enable health insurers to discriminate against people with mental health conditions by setting higher copayments, deductibles, and coinsurance payments for mental health services than for treatment of physical health conditions.

Employers and health insurers counter that legislation Domenici and others sought (S. 543, H.R. 4066) would increase health care costs by making it difficult to manage mental health benefits and placing burdensome new requirements on health insurance.