Human Resource professionals, like so many other workers, are facing tough times. They are struggling to attract new hires, retain and engage current employees, manage diversity, foster corporate culture, and so much more.

One of the most important and complicated jobs of Human Resources is to manage employee healthcare coverage. Healthcare requirements are constantly changing, but Covid created a whirlwind of new federal and state laws. In addition, the public is more involved in the national discourse of healthcare.

Magnifying Mental Health

Mental health is in the spotlight, given that over 47 million Americans are experiencing a mental health illness, and 21 million Americans have at least one addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), drug addiction is classified as a mental illness. For clarity and brevity, I will refer to mental health as one classification that includes mental health and substance addiction.

The consequences of a population with poor mental health can be felt throughout our country. Individuals with mental illness can overwhelm our hospitals, crowd our jails, increase homelessness and impact our workplaces. Ultimately, our population’s mental health impacts our entire economy and the success of our businesses.

What is Mental Health Parity?

The definition of “parity” is the state or condition of being equal, especially regarding status or pay. Our healthcare parity laws aim to require insurers to offer mental health benefits comparable to their general medical and surgical care coverage.

Historically, health insurance covered mental health care differently than other medical care. It has taken decades to try to bring mental health care into balance with physical health care.

Healthcare to Help

For years, many Americans paid for insurance coverage that did not recognize mental health, which we now know is every bit as important as physical health, and that going without effective treatment can be debilitating and even life-threatening.

Addressing mental illness is extremely complex, and the struggles of handling mental health treatments have been going on for decades. In 1961, President Kennedy directed the Civil Service Commission (now known as the Office of Personnel Management) to implement parity. By the 1970s, this effort was scaled back, and federal, and state governments have taken steps forward and backward to make parity a reality.

The 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act gives mental health parity a boost with more strict compliance laws. Group health plans and issuers covering mental health/substance use disorder (MH/SUD) and medical/surgical (M/S) benefits must prepare a comparative analysis of any nonquantitative treatment limits.

Beginning February 10th, 2021, plans have to supply this analysis and other information if requested by federal regulators (the Department of Labor (DOL)). The new law also requires agencies to prepare an annual report to Congress on these requests and issue compliance programs.

It appears that DOL and state regulators are stepping up to enforce mental health parity with legal actions against some insurance companies. In August, DOL announced a $15.6 million settlement in a case involving United Healthcare, and this month, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Aetna for violating parity laws.

Meaningful Mental Health

The demand for mental health services continues to soar within this pandemic, and consumers are challenging decisions by insurance providers. Reach out to PT Business Solutions with questions about your employee healthcare benefits and how you can ensure you have adequate mental health coverage for your team.

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