Mental Health Parity In Disability Insurance – Dan Fishbein, M.D., president of Sun Life U.S., released the following statement regarding the ERISA Advisory Council’s recommendation that Congress pass legislation to require mental health parity in long-term disability insurance.
“Mental health is health, unequivocally. Just as with physical conditions, mental health conditions can render a person unable to work. Disability insurance offers a level of income protection when someone cannot work due to illness or injury – but by tradition in the U.S. has typically only covered mental health conditions for two years, depending on the policy. The ERISA Advisory Council today has recommended that Congress pass legislation to ensure mental health parity in disability insurance, which is already the case for health insurance. As one of North America’s largest disability insurers, we support this important change. Mental health conditions should be covered by long-term disability in the same way that physical conditions are. We encourage Congress to take up and pass appropriate legislation to make this happen.
The obvious question is why disability insurers don’t do it themselves. Any single company introducing this approach without a market-wide solution would become uncompetitive almost immediately. A legislative solution is thus the best option, as it ensures an equitable approach for all covered workers while also supporting a strong and sustainable disability insurance market.
Another critical issue is the financial impact. While some have expressed concern that employers will be unable to afford the additional cost of full mental health coverage and will therefore cease offering disability insurance to their employees, we believe this will not be the case. Employers correctly recognize disability insurance as a valuable employee benefit on which employees rely. The additional cost would be relatively minor if all disability carriers provided mental health parity. Furthermore, disability insurers contribute significant resources to cost management, particularly by assisting people in returning to health and returning to work.
America is experiencing a mental health crisis. Benefits designed 75 years ago and carried on as a market tradition do not reflect current reality. We encourage others to join us in supporting efforts to modernize disability coverage to meet the needs of today’s American workers. We must do the right thing and ensure that the conditions that must be covered are covered, so that workers can receive the support and assistance they require. The goal remains to get people back to health and back to work as soon as possible, and providing good mental health benefits to help people get through times when they can’t work is a good investment.
We applaud the ERISA Advisory Council’s recommendation and stand ready to work with members of Congress and other partners to support appropriate legislation. Society benefits by helping more workers get the mental healthcare they need, and Congress and the industry have the opportunity to do just that.”