The Parity Act
how it applies and how we enforce it
Benefits for mental health and substance use disorder services are an essential and often lifesaving component of health coverage. These benefits provide security and enable individuals to seek care they might not otherwise be able to receive. For many years, however, most health coverage options failed to provide equal treatment for mental health and substance use disorder treatment compared to treatment for physical health conditions.
Recognizing this disparity, on October 3, 2008, Congress enacted the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA), which supplemented the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996. MHPAEA generally requires that coverage for health care services for mental health and substance use disorders be comparable to – or in parity with – coverage for services for general medical and surgical care. Generally, the Federal parity law and regulations aim to eliminate overly burdensome restrictions health plans placed on mental health and substance use disorder coverage – like higher copayments, separate deductibles, lower annual visit limits, and techniques on how care is managed (such as pre-authorizations or medical necessity reviews) that are more restrictive than those placed on medical and surgical benefits.