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Group tries to halt mental health parity rule


WASHINGTON—A suit seeking to prevent the implementation of an interim final rule requiring parity for mental health benefits has been filed in federal court by a coalition of mental health care benefits organizations.

The interim final rule, which is slated to go into effect for plan years beginning July 1, was issued earlier this year by several federal agencies to implement a 2008 law that requires group plans with more than 50 employees to provide the same coverage of mental health and substance abuse treatments as they do for medical and surgical care.

The suit was filed last week in U.S. District Court in Washington by the Coalition for Parity Inc., a coalition of organizations that handle mental health care benefits for managed care plans and for employers.

The suit alleges that regulators failed to provide a “true and complete comment period,” which has resulted in “confusing, flawed and untested requirements.”

Among other things, the rule would ban the use of separate deductibles for mental health and medical treatment.

The coalition, though, says a single deductible for mental health and other medical services is a “requirement found nowhere” in the 2008 law.

“This requirement marks a dramatic departure from existing practice in the industry,” according to the suit filed by law firm Crowell & Moring L.L.P. in Washington.

“While seemingly straightforward in concept, the task of requiring multiple different claims systems to ‘talk to each' other on anything resembling a real-time basis is a task of monumental proportion that the departments did not appreciate precisely because they ignored the mandatory notice and comment period prior to issuance of a final rule,” according to the suit.