THE PAUL WELLSTONE and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) was enacted into law on October 3, 2008, as part of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. The MHPAEA amended the existing mental health parity requirements of ERISA, the Public Health Service Act and the Internal Revenue Code. On February 2, 2010, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Labor and the Department of Health and Human Services issued interim final regulations under MHPAEA which replace the existing mental health parity regulations and expand the scope of parity imposed on group health plans and issuers who offer both medical/surgical benefits and mental health benefits.

The Mental Health Parity Act of 1996 (“MHPA”), the federal law that previously governed mental health parity requirements, generally provided that if a group health plan or issuer offered both medical/surgical benefits and mental health benefits, the plan could not contain lower lifetime or annual expenditure limits for mental health benefits. MHPAEA has extended MHPA's requirements regarding lifetime and annual expenditure limits to substance use disorder benefits. In addition, the new law imposes new requirements on group health plans or issuers offering both medical/surgical benefits and mental health or substance use disorder benefits relating to the plans’ financial requirements and treatment limitations, out-of-network providers and availability of plan information. Though PPACA prohibits lifetime and annual limits, compliance with the financial and non-financial restrictions under MHPAEA is still required.

Effective Date. The Regulations are effective April 5, 2010, and generally apply to group health plans and health insurers for plan years beginning on or after July 1, 2010. Group health plans maintained pursuant to one or more collective bargaining agreements ratified before October 3, 2008, are not required to comply with the MHPAEA before the later of (i) the date on which the last of the collective bargaining agreements relating to such group health plan terminates (determined without regard to any extension thereof agreed to after October 3, 2008) and (ii) July 1, 2010. 