Lawmakers Extend Mental Health Parity Through '08

December 21, 2007 ( - U. S. lawmakers have approved legislation that extends the existing mental health parity law until the end of 2008.

BNA reports that a provision included in the measure passed by the House and Senate this week would impose a $100 fine per day for violations. The provision is effective January 1, 2008, the news report said.

Mental health parity means group health plans may not impose benefit and coverage limits on mental health care that are higher than that of medical health care. Congress has been trying to pass new comprehensive mental health parity legislation rather than only extending the existing rules (SeeMental Health Parity Act Gets Senate Approval).

However, the House and Senate have been clashing on differences in their bill versions. The House bill differs from the Senate bill in that the House bill hands more power to the states to set stronger standards governing cost sharing and treatment parity for mental health care services, while the Senate bill preempts state control.

In addition, the House bill requires the employer to provide coverage for the same range of mental disorders and illnesses which are covered by federal health care plans available to members of Congress, where the Senate bill gives employers discretion over what disorders to cover.