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Mental health benefits: Know federal, state parity laws

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in Employee Benefits Program,Human Resources

When Congress reconvenes, one of the hottest issues will be whether to add new teeth to a five-year-old federal mental-health parity law.

Under the law, companies offering mental health coverage can't set annual or lifetime dollar limits on workers' mental health benefits that are lower than the limits for physical care. But there are big loopholes: You can still set higher co-payments and deductibles for mental health care, and you can cap the number of annual visits to psychiatrists. Plus, companies with fewer than 50 workers are exempt.

As late as December 1999, 14 percent of all employers still were not complying with the federal Mental Health Parity Act, which took effect on Jan. 1, 1998.

Of those who did comply, two-thirds had tightened some other feature of their mental health benefits, the General Accounting Office reported last year. And 87 percent of those complying with the law said at least one other...(register to read more)

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