Parity is about fairness

Americans often have more difficulty getting behavioral health treatment than they do accessing other medical care. Even those with health insurance face barriers. Insurance plans charge them more or put more restrictions on behavioral health benefits that are not in place for other medical care. Parity laws at the federal and state level are designed to change this and make health insurance plans treat individuals with behavioral health conditions fairly.

Parity is the Law

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (the Federal Parity Law ) was passed in 2008 and requires health insurance plans to cover behavioral health benefits and physical health benefits equally. The Federal Parity Law says three things:

  • Health insurance plans CANNOT have higher co-payments and other out-of-pocket expenses for your behavioral health benefits than they do for other medical benefits.
  • Health insurance plans CANNOT put higher limitations on the number of visits or days of coverage for your behavioral health care than they do for other medical care.
  • Health insurance plans CANNOT use more restrictive managed care practices for behavioral health benefits than they use for other medical benefits.

The Federal Parity Law does not require that all health insurance plans cover behavioral health care, but if they do, the coverage must be comparable to what’s in place for other medical care.

State Parity Laws can also provide additional rights beyond the Federal Parity Law. Learn more about state parity laws and legislative efforts to improve those laws here.

Parity has many layers

Americans get insurance in many different ways- from their employer, from the federal government, from state or local governments, or by purchasing it themselves on an insurance marketplace (such as healthcare.gov). Parity laws do not apply to all plans in the same way, and not all types of health insurance are covered by the Federal Parity Law or a state parity law. Learn more about parity rights under different health insurance plans here.