This blog is written by Mr. Steven C. Schurr, Esq. and focuses on health care law matters that pertain to food and drug law, regulatory compliance, privacy rights, insurance coverage, state and federal disability coverage, patient advocacy issues, and mental health coverage and treatment.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Update on Enforcement of HIPAA Privacy Rule

CCH has published a summary of enforcement data for privacy violations under HIPAA since enforcement of the law began in April 2003:

There is no individual private cause of action for HIPAA violations. A complaint must be filed with the Office of Civil Rights in the case of an alleged violation.


New Mental Health Parity Law

At least one good thing came out of the recent financial troubles that our country has been experiencing. After more than 10 years of trying, Congress has passed a law that requires employer-sponsored health care plans to treat mental health disorders to the same level and degree as they do physical ailments.

The new requirements are included in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (H.R. 1424), which is the "economic bailout" bill that President Bush signed into law on October 3, 2008. For years, plans have generally been less generous in their coverage of treatment for mental illness. The new law becomes effective in 2010 and generally applies to employers with more than 50 workers, with certain exceptions.

Under the new law, plan participants cannot be required to pay more in deductibles, copayments, coinsurance and out-of-pocket expenses for mental health and substance use disorder benefits than they are required to pay for the plan's most common or frequent types of medical/surgical benefit.

The new law prevents plans from limiting the frequency of treatment, the number of visits, the days of coverage, etc. for mental health/substance use treatment moreso than they do for medical/surgical benefits.

In addition, "out-of-network" mental health services must be covered under the law if they are covered for medical/surgical benefits.

A plan must provide a legally acceptable definition of "mental health" and "substance use disorder" and is permitted to use utilization review and/or pre-authorization to determine medical necessity and appropriateness. The plan administrator must disclose any medical necessity determination criteria to any participant upon request. Also, the reason for any denial of reimbursement or payment also must be provided.

The law provides a penalty of up to $100/day for non-compliance and allows plan participants to file civil lawsuits to obtain inappropriately denied benefits.