On October 3, 2008, the President signed the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA). Key changes made by MHPAEA, which is generally effective for plan years beginning after October 3, 2009, include the following:

* If a group health plan includes medical/surgical benefits and mental health benefits, the financial requirements (e.g., deductibles and co-payments) and treatment limitations (e.g., number of visits or days of coverage) that apply to mental health benefits must be no more restrictive than the predominant financial requirements or treatment limitations that apply to substantially all medical/surgical benefits;

* If a group health plan includes medical/surgical benefits and substance use disorder benefits, the financial requirements and treatment limitations that apply to substance use disorder benefits must be no more restrictive than the predominant financial requirements or treatment limitations that apply to substantially all medical/surgical benefits;

* Mental health benefits and substance use disorder benefits may not be subject to any separate cost sharing requirements or treatment limitations that only apply to such benefits;

* If a group health plan includes medical/surgical benefits and mental health benefits, and the plan provides for out of network medical/surgical benefits, it must provide for out of network mental health benefits;

* If a group health plan includes medical/surgical benefits and substance use disorder benefits, and the plan provides for out of network medical/surgical benefits, it must provide for out of network substance use disorder benefits;

* Standards for medical necessity determinations and reasons for any denial of benefits relating to mental health benefits and substance use disorder benefits must be made available upon request to plan participants;

* The parity requirements for the existing law (regarding annual and lifetime dollar limits) will continue and will be extended to substance use disorder benefits.

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