Mental Health Parity

Summary:

This document contains an interim final amendment to modify the sunset date of interim final regulations under the Mental Health Parity Act (MHPA) to be consistent with legislation passed during the 108th Congress.

Table of Contents

For further information contact:

Mark Connor, Employee Benefits Security Administration, Department of Labor, at (202) 693-8335.

Individuals interested in obtaining additional information on the Mental Health Parity Act and other health care laws may request copies of Department of Labor publications concerning changes in health care law by calling the EBSA Toll-Free Hotline at 1-866-444-EBSA (3272), or access the publications on-line at http://www.dol.gov/ebsa, the Department of Labor's Web site. Information on the Mental Health Parity Act and other health care laws is also available on the Department of Labor's interactive Web pages, Health Elaws (http://www.dol.gov/elaws/ebsa/health).

Supplementary information:

A. Background

The Mental Health Parity Act of 1996 (MHPA) was enacted on September 26, 1996 (Pub. L. 104-204, 110 Stat. 2944). MHPA amended the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and the Public Health Service Act (PHS Act) to provide for parity in the application of annual and lifetime dollar limits on mental health benefits with dollar limits on medical/surgical benefits. Provisions implementing MHPA were later added to the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (Code) under the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 (Pub. L. 105-34, 111 Stat. 1080).

The provisions of MHPA, as originally enacted, are set forth in Part 7 of Subtitle B of Title I of ERISA, Chapter 100 of Subtitle K of the Code, and Title XXVII of the PHS Act. [1] The MHPA provisions in ERISA generally apply to all group health plans other than governmental plans, church plans, and certain other plans. These provisions also apply to health insurance issuers that offer health insurance coverage in connection with such group health plans. Generally, the Secretary of Labor enforces the MHPA provisions in ERISA, except that no enforcement action may be taken by the Secretary against issuers. However, individuals may generally pursue actions against issuers under ERISA and, in some circumstances, under state law.

B. Overview of MHPA

The MHPA provisions set forth in section 712 of ERISA apply to a group health plan (or health insurance coverage offered by issuers in connection with a group health plan) that provides both medical/surgical benefits and mental health benefits. MHPA's original text included a sunset provision specifying that MHPA's provisions applied to benefits for services furnished before September 30, 2001. On December 22, 1997, the Departments of Labor, the Treasury, and Health and Human Services issued interim final regulations under MHPA in the Federal Register(62 FR 66931). The interim final regulations included this statutory sunset date.

On January 10, 2002, President Bush signed H.R. 3061 (Pub. L. 107-116, 115 Stat. 2177), the 2002 Appropriations Act for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. This legislation extended MHPA's original sunset date under ERISA, the Code, and the PHS Act, so that MHPA's provisions would apply to benefits for services furnished before December 31, 2002.

On March 9, 2002, President Bush signed H.R. 3090, the Job Creation and Worker Assistance Act of 2002 (Pub. L. 107-147, 116 Stat. 21), that included an amendment to section 9812 of the Code (the mental health parity provisions). This legislation further extended MHPA's original sunset date under the Code to December 31, 2003.

On September 27, 2002, the Department of Labor issued an interim final amendment for mental health parity in the Federal Register(67 FR 60859). The interim final amendment included the new statutory sunset date under H.R. 3061, so that MHPA's provisions would apply to benefits for services furnished before December 31, 2002. The Department made the effective date of this interim final amendment to the regulations September 30, 2001.

On December 2, 2002, President Bush signed H.R. 5716, the Mental Health Parity Reauthorization Act of 2002 (Pub. L. 107-313, 116 Stat. 2457), an amendment to section 712 of ERISA and Section 2705 of the PHS Act. This legislation further extended MHPA's original sunset date under ERISA and the PHS Act to December 31, 2003. On April 14, 2003, the Department of Labor issued an interim final amendment for mental health parity in the Federal Register(68 FR 18048). The interim final amendment included the new statutory sunset date under H.R. 5716, so that MHPA's provisions would apply to benefits for services furnished before December 31, 2003.

On December 19, 2003, President Bush signed S. 1929, the Mental Health Parity Reauthorization Act of 2003 (Pub. L. 108-197, 117 Stat. 2998), an amendment to section 712 of ERISA and Section 2705 of the PHS Act. This legislation further extended MHPA's original sunset date under ERISA and the PHS Act to December 31, 2004. On January 26, 2004, the Department of Labor issued an interim final amendment for mental health parity in the Federal Register(69 FR 3815). The final rule included the new statutory sunset date under S. 1929, so that MHPA's provisions would apply to benefits for services furnished before December 31, 2004.

On October 4, 2004, President Bush signed H.R. 1308, the Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2004 (Pub. L. 108-311, 118 Stat. 1166), an amendment to section 712 of ERISA, Section 9812 of the Code, and Section 2705 of the PHS Act. This legislation further extends MHPA's original sunset date under ERISA, the Code, and the PHS Act to December 31, 2005. Like MHPA, this amendment to MHPA applies to a group health plan (or health insurance coverage offered by issuers in connection with a group health plan) that provides both medical/surgicalbenefits and mental health benefits. [2] As a result of this statutory amendment, and to assist employers, plan sponsors, health insurance issuers, and workers, the Department of Labor has developed this amendment of the interim final regulations, in consultation with the Departments of the Treasury and Health and Human Services, conforming the regulatory sunset date to the new statutory sunset date. The Department is also making conforming changes extending the duration of the increased cost exemption to be consistent with the new sunset date.

Since the extension of this sunset date is not discretionary, this amendment to the MHPA regulations is promulgated on an interim final basis pursuant to Section 734 of ERISA. This interim final amendment is also promulgated pursuant to Section 553(d)(3) of the Administrative Procedure Act, allowing for regulations to become effective immediately for good cause.

C. Executive Order 12866

Under Executive Order 12866, the Department must determine whether a regulatory action is “significant” and therefore subject to the requirements of the Executive Order and subject to review by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Under section 3(f), the order defines a “significant regulatory action” as an action that is likely to result in a rule: (1) Having an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more, or adversely and materially affecting a sector of the economy, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public health or safety, or state, local or tribal governments or communities (also referred to as “economically significant”); (2) creating serious inconsistency or otherwise interfering with an action taken or planned by another agency; (3) materially altering the budgetary impacts of entitlement grants, user fees, or loan programs or the rights and obligations of recipients thereof; or (4) raising novel legal or policy issues arising out of legal mandates, the President's priorities, or the principles set forth in the Executive Order.

Pursuant to the terms of the Executive Order, it has been determined that this action is not a “significant regulatory action” within the meaning of the Executive Order. This action is an amendment to the interim final regulations and merely extends the regulatory sunset date to conform to the new statutory sunset date added by H.R. 1308.

D. Paperwork Reduction Act

The information collection provisions of MHPA incorporated in the Department's interim final rules are currently approved under OMB control numbers 1210-0105 (Notice to Participants and Beneficiaries and Federal Government of Electing One Percent Increased Cost Exemption), and 1210-0106 (Calculation and Disclosure of Documentation of Eligibility for Exemption). Because this action does not change the approved information collection provisions, no submission for OMB approval is being made in connection with this interim final amendment. However, because OMB's approval for the information collection requests approved under control numbers 1210-0105 and 1210-0106 were scheduled to expire on November 30, 2004 and October 31, 2004, respectively, the Department requested public comment on their proposed renewal, and has submitted requests to OMB for continuing approval. OMB is currently reviewing those requests.

E. Regulatory Flexibility Act

The Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601et seq.) (RFA) imposes certain requirements with respect to federal rules that are subject to the notice and comment requirements of section 553(b) of the Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C. 551et seq.). Because this amendment to the interim final regulations is being published on an interim final basis, without prior notice and a period for comment, the Regulatory Flexibility Act does not apply.

F. Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

For purposes of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (Pub. L. 104-4) (UMRA), as well as Executive Order 12875, this interim final amendment does not include any federal mandate that may result in expenditures by state, local, or tribal governments, and does not include mandates that may impose an annual expenditure of $100 million or more on the private sector.

G. Congressional Review Act

This interim final amendment is subject to the Congressional Review Act provisions of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (5 U.S.C. 801et seq.) (SBREFA), and has been transmitted to Congress and the Comptroller General for review. This amendment to the interim final regulations is not a major rule, as that term is defined by 5 U.S.C. 804.

H. Federalism Statement

Executive Order 13132 (August 4, 1999) outlines fundamental principles of federalism and requires the adherence to specific criteria by federal agencies in the process of their formulation and implementation of policies that have substantial direct effects on the states, the relationship between the states, the relationship between the national government and the states, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government. This interim final amendment does not have federalism implications as it only conforms the regulatory sunset date to the new statutory sunset date added by H.R. 1308.

List of subjects in 29 cfr part 2590

Continuation coverage, Disclosure, Employee benefit plans, Group health plans, Health care, Health insurance, Medical child support, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

Employee Benefits Security Administration

29 CFR part 2590 is amended as follows:

Part 2590—rules and regulations for group health plans

1. The authority for part 2590 is revised to read as follows:

Authority:

29 U.S.C. 1027, 1059, 1135, 1161-1168, 1169, 1181-1183, 1181 note, 1185, 1185a, 1185b, 1191, 1191a, 1191b, and 1191c, sec. 101(g), Pub. L. 104-191, 101 Stat. 1936; sec. 401(b), Pub. L. 105-200, 112 Stat. 645 (42 U.S.C. 651 note); Secretary of Labor's Order 1-2003, 68 FR 5374 (Feb. 3, 2003).

§ 2590.712 2. Amend § 2590.712(f)(1), (g)(2), and (i) by removing the date “December 31, 2004” and add in its place the date “December 31, 2005” wherever it appears in these paragraphs. Signed in Washington, DC this 10th day of December, 2004. Ann L. Combs,

Assistant Secretary, Employee Benefits Security Administration.

Footnotes

1. Part 7 of Subtitle of Title I of ERISA, Chapter 100 of Subtitle K of the Code, and Title XXVII of the PHS Act were added by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), Public Law 104-191.

2. The parity requirements under MHPA, the interim regulations, and the amendment to the interim regulations do not apply to any group health plan (or health insurance coverage offered in connection with a group health plan) for any plan year of a small employer. The term “small employer” is defined as an employer who employed an average of at least 2 but not more than 50 employees on business days during the preceding calendar year and who employs at least 2 employees on the first day of the plan year.

References

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