Senate Bill Would Extend Mental Health Parity Provisions

December 8, 2006 ( - A broader tax bill offered by the two top members of the US Senate Finance Committee would extend for another year a law requiring employers to offer limited parity for mental health care expenses in their health care plans.

The broader bill, introduced by Chairman Charles Grassley, (R-Iowa), and ranking minority member Max Baucus, (D-Montana), also includes numerous provisions to extend other expiring laws.

On the mental health issue, the bill extends through December 31, 2007 a 1996 law that bans health care plans from offering lower annual and lifetime dollar limits on coverage for mental health conditions than for other medical ailments.

The 1996 law, which Congress has renewed several times previously (See  Mental Health Parity Act Sunset Rule Extended Again ), is currently set to expire at the end of 2006.

While the 1996 law bans discriminatory annual and lifetime dollar limits on mental health benefits, it allows employers to discriminate in other ways, the news report said. For example, employers can require higher copayments and deductibles for mental health care services than for other medical services.