Employers Plan to Continue Mental Health Coverage

June 10, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Employers responding to an online survey indicated they will continue to offer mental health or substance use disorder coverage when a new federal law requiring employers to provide parity between medical/surgical and mental health/addiction benefits goes into effect January 1.

According to the survey results, 74% are not considering dropping mental health coverage, and 77% are not considering dropping substance use disorder coverage as a result of the law. Only eight respondents indicated that their company was considering dropping mental health coverage – five of which have 0 to 50 employees, which means they are exempt from the law.

The responses suggest that the legislation will require a number of benefit design changes. Thirty-seven percent indicated they would change employee co-pays, 26% will change co-insurance, and 29% will change deductible amounts.

In addition, 38% are considering increasing the promotion or use of Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). Around one-quarter are considering the implementation of a disability management program (26%) or a case management program (24%).

Of the 143 respondents, 86% provide mental health coverage and 82% provide substance abuse disorder coverage. Only 9% of employers report their cost of providing these benefits is greater than 5% of their total health care spend. Twenty-four percent expect these costs to stay about the same after the law goes into effect, and 36% expect costs to increase less than 2%.

The survey report is here .