The 2008 enactment of the MHPAEA represents a new era for coverage of behavioral health conditions. While the law has some exclusions, it is substantially more comprehensive than the previous federal parity law1 and considerably stronger than most state parity laws. The Act requires that financial requirements and treatment limitations for group health plans, including out-of-network provider coverage for treatment for mental and substance use disorders, be no more restrictive than those for medical-surgical services. The new federal law does not pre-empt more restrictive state parity requirements but does extend parity to self-insured plans that are exempt from state regulation. It also extends parity beyond benefits for treating mental health disorders, to include benefits for treating substance use disorders.
1. Mental Health Parity Act, PL 104-204 (1996).