Issue Brief #6: Parity—Expanding Equitable Insurance Coverage for Addiction and Mental Health Treatment

On January 1, 2010, the Wellstone-Domenici Parity Act went into effect, expanding access to mental health and addiction treatment coverage in many employer-sponsored group health plans. The new federal law applies to group health plans covering 50 or more employees that provide any level of coverage for treatment of mental health and substance use disorders. Those plans are now required to cover mental health and substance use disorders benefits at “parity,” or in the same way as they cover other medical and surgical services.

Simply put, “parity” is the treatment of addiction and mental illness in insurance benefits in the same way as other medical conditions.

When the law is fully implemented, it is estimated that 140 million Americans could have improved access to addiction and mental health treatment services should they need it.