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Mount Baker Nurse Practitioners Association

Final phase of mental health parity law takes effect Thursday

Posted over 8 years ago by Jan Taylor

NEWS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – June 30, 2010
Media contact: Stephanie Marquis, 360-725-7055
10-25

Final phase of mental health parity law takes effect Thursday

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The third and final phase of Washington state’s 2005 Mental Health Parity Law takes effect July 1. Starting Thursday, any limits on the number of office visits or inpatient hospital days to treat mental disorders must be removed from all state-regulated health plans, unless the limits also apply to other health services.

“For too long, people suffering with serious mental health conditions have had to piece together insurance coverage, if they had any at all,” said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. “The final enactment of our mental health parity law is a victory for all consumers.”

The law was designed to phase in benefits over five years. In 2006, all health plans for employers with more than 50 employees that included medical and surgical services were required to also cover mental health services. In addition, the copays, co-insurance and prescription drug coverage limits had to be the same for mental health services.

In 2008, these benefits extended to all regulated health plans, and if a plan had a maximum out-of-pocket limit, the limit had to apply to all services, including mental health.

“As many individuals and families know, mental illness can be as devastating as any other health condition,” said Kreidler.  “It’s only fair that people in need of mental health services have access to the same insurance coverage as other patients.”

Washington state’s mental health parity law goes further than the Federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Act of 2008. Under the federal law, health plans are not required to offer mental health services, but if they do, they must be on par with other health services. Also, the federal law only applies to employer health plans with more than 50 employees. Washington’s new law first applied to just large employers but now applies to all regulated health plans.