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Continued: Suit against UnitedHealth tests mental health coverage rules

  • Article by: JIM SPENCER , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 6, 2013 - 4:28 PM

Rules for applying the parity law languished in regulatory limbo for two years after its passage. Even today the rules are labeled “interim final rules,” which some experts say could undermine the law’s enforcement. The suit against UnitedHealth marks the first significant test of those rules, experts agree.

“Often a big first case affects perception and then action,” said the Bazelon Center’s Burnim. “If the plaintiffs win, alarms will go off in the insurance industry.”

Burnim warned that parity cases could discourage employers from offering mental health and substance abuse benefits or make them change rules for medical and surgical treatments.

“There are two ways to achieve parity,” he said. “You can make mental health benefits more generous or you can make physical health benefits more restrictive.”

 

Jim Spencer • 202-383-6123

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