NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 12, 2010

As we are about to find out with health overhaul legislation, how laws are translated into actual on-the-ground rules is extremely important, says the Wall Street Journal. 

The mental health parity law, passed in 2008, prohibits employers' insurance plans from treating mental health and physical health differently.  The New York Times reports that a "huge fight" on the law's interpretation is going on, pitting groups such as the American Medical Association and House Democrats against insurers. 

At issue is the so-called non quantitative treatment limits, such as requirements for prior authorization, the rates insurers pay providers and the submission of a treatment plan: 

  • Insurers do not believe the Obama administration should try to establish parity in those procedures and practices.
  • The American Psychiatric Association says those restrictions lying outside the more straightforward rules about equal co pays and limits on visits may actually be "more insidious."  

One of the biggest bones of contention is the requirement that insurance plans have a single deductible to cover both mental and physical health benefits.  Insurers say it will mean higher costs for those seeking mental health services, while House Democrats say a single deductible goes to the heart of the parity law. 

Source:  Katherine Hobson, "The Devil is in the Details on Mental Health Parity Law," Wall Street Journal, May 10, 2010; and Robert Pear, "Fight Erupts Over Rules Issued for 'Mental Health Parity' Insurance Law," New York Times, May 9, 2010. 

For Journal text:  

For Times text: 


Browse more articles on Health Issues