President Bush is expected to sign HR 1424 very quickly in order to restore confidence in sagging credit markets. The parity law becomes effective 1-year after enactment of the bill. This will mean that group health plans will no longer be able to impose limits on inpatient days or outpatient visits or require higher deductibles or cost sharing for mental illness or addiction treatment that are not also applied to all other medical-surgical coverage.
There is a special effective date rule for collective bargaining agreements that would delay imposition of the parity requirements until the next collective bargaining contract goes into effect. The law requires that the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Treasury issue regulations within 1 year, although failure to issue such regulations will not delay the effective date of parity.
In the coming weeks, NAMI will be developing educational materials and guidelines on how parity will impact insurance coverage for consumers and families. For now, NAMI advocates can celebrate a landmark achievement!