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New Laws Apply to Employer Health Care Plans

January 21, 2009
Related Topics: Health and Wellness, Featured Article, Legal
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Employer-sponsored health care plans are subject to new requirements created by a number of federal laws enacted in 2008, including the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, and "Michelle’s Law."

    The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (H.R. 493, P.L. 110-233) prohibits employers and group health plans from discriminating on the basis of genetic information and limits the collection of information by employers and group health plans. The law prohibits enrollment restrictions and premium adjustment on the basis of genetic information or services and bars employers from requesting or requiring that an individual take a genetic test. Employers and group health plans can be held liable for the unlawful collection of genetic information. The law takes effect in November 2009 (18 months after enactment on May 21, 2008).

    The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (H.R. 1424, 110 P.L. 343) requires employers with 50 or more employees that provide mental health and substance abuse benefits to extend benefits on the same level as they provide for traditional medical and hospital benefits. It does not require employers to provide benefits for mental health and substance abuse services. This law applies to plan years beginning on and after October 3, 2009, and beginning January 1, 2010, for calendar-year plans. For collective-bargaining-agreement plans, the law applies to plan years beginning after January 1, 2009, or the date on which the last collective bargaining agreement terminates.

    "Michelle’s Law" (H.R. 2851) ensures that dependent college students who take a medically necessary leave of absence for up to one year do not lose health insurance coverage.

    Impact: Plan sponsors should review their plans to ensure that appropriate mental health and substance abuse benefits are available and that limitations imposed on mental health, substance abuse, medical and hospital benefits are the same.

Workforce Management, January 19, 2008, p. 8 -- Subscribe Now!

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