President George W. Bush recently signed the $700 billion Wall Street bailout. This bill also included an important provision concerning employee health benefits.
In this law, insurance carriers are required to provide equal coverage for mental and physical illnesses. Workers will receive benefits for treatment of depression, phobias, grief, drug dependence and other mental health issues. Treatment for mental illness was often previously limited to $2,000 per year, while some group health insurance plans covered physical illness up to $200,000 per year. This law makes that disparity illegal.
The law ensures that American workers continue to receive insurance coverage for mental health treatments under their group health insurance. A similar law in effect for the previous 12 years was scheduled to expire on January 1, 2010.
The bill passed the House on October 3 with a vote of 263 to 171. This measure is expected to cover up to one third of all workers in the U.S.
The law will be effective on January 1, 2010. The previous law would have expired before that day. Businesses with 50 or fewer employees are exempt.