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Mental Health and Addictions Parity

On October 3, 2008, President Bush signed the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which included the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity & Addiction Equity Act of 2008 as an amendment. This law significantly expands upon the mental health protections of the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996 and will protect over 113 million people across the U.S., including 82 million individuals enrolled in ERISA group health insurance plans. This law helps to lay the foundation for ending the unequitable provision of mental health and substance use disorder benefits compared to general health benefits.

The Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury have issued regulations providing guidance on the implementation of the Wellstone-Domenici parity law. These regulations went into effect on July 1, 2010.

Parity was also included as a central component of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. As the provisions of the healthcare reform law are gradually rolled out over the coming years, the National Council and other advocacy groups are working to ensure that parity is included in all levels of implementation.

For more news and resources on parity, please see the Parity section of the National Council’s blog,


Recent News

Parity Implementation

Regulations providing guidance on how insurance plans should implement the Wellstone-Domenici Parity Law were issued on Jan. 29, 2010. These regulations went into effect for plan years beginning on July 1, 2010 or later.

Parity Appeals Toolkit: The National Council, with the Parity Implementation Coalition, has released a toolkit to help you understand your rights under the Wellstone-Domenici Parity law. The Toolkit contains details on the requirements of the parity law and resources to help providers and consumers file successful appeals.

The National Council wants to make sure that group health plans covered by the law are complying with its requirements. If you suspect that your insurance plan is improperly restricting coverage of mental health and substance use disorder services:

  • File an Official Complaint: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has set up a Help Line to answer your questions or hear your concerns about your health plan’s compliance with the law. The number for the Help Line is: 1-877-267-2323 ext. 6-5511. In addition, Department of Labor benefits advisors are available to answer your questions about the parity law and provide assistance in obtaining your benefits. Call 1-866-444-3272 to express your concerns about your health plan’s compliance with the law.

Fact Sheets

Official Letters

  • Rich Paul

    Parity is an important protection for those who have mental illness. However, the 2008 statute protects only those who are covered by employer-sponsored insurance plans in companies with 50 or more employees. That completely leaves out many thousands (millions?) of individuals who work for a small business or are self-employed. I understand how the legislative process works, but this is a compromise that denies a basic protection to those who need it the most.

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