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Zack Hutchins
Director of Communications

June 11, 1998 

'Mental health parity' bill, opposed by Council, is focus of June 24 meeting

A bill that would mandate "mental health parity" in employee health benefits in New York will be discussed at the next meeting of The Business Council's Labor and Human Resources Committee.The meeting will take place from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday, June 24 at Business Council headquarters in Albany.George Stacier M.D. of the New York State Medical Society and Barry Perlman M.D. from the New York State Psychiatric Association will discuss the implications of the bill, which is sponsored by Senator Thomas Libous.The Business Council opposes the bill, which would require all employers' health-care benefits to provide the same benefits for mental health care that are provided for other medical care. Both physicians' visits and hospitalization would be covered in the bill. A similar federal law, the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996, established essentially the same mandates, according to Tom Minnick, Manager of the Center for Human Resources at The Business Council.Minnick noted that the federal law contains a number of provisions designed to give employers some flexibility to contain costs associated with mental health care.For example, the federal law does not require employers to offer mental health benefits. It also enables employers to continue to require cost-sharing, to limit the number of visits or days of coverage, and to impose requirements related to medical necessity. The federal law also exempts employers with 50 or fewer employees, and provides an exemption for plans that experience increased costs of at least 1 percent.The bill pending in Albany would eliminate some of this flexibility, Minnick noted.The agenda also includes: