Michelle Capezza Quoted in “DOL’s Guidance on Bipolar Benefits Raises Eyebrows”


Michelle Capezza, Member of the Firm in the Employee Benefits and Health Care and Life Sciences practices, in the firm’s New York office, was quoted in Law360, in “DOL’s Guidance On Bipolar Benefits Raises Eyebrows,” by Emily Brill. (Read the full version – subscription required.)

Following is an excerpt:

Employers can look to the U.S. Department of Labor’s recent guidance on the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act for direction on how to handle mental health and addiction benefits without landing in legal trouble, but the DOL’s language on bipolar disorder may create more confusion than clarity, attorneys say.

In the guidance — a set of frequently asked questions released in draft form last week — the DOL told employers it is legal for a benefit plan to exclude all treatment for bipolar disorder because a wholesale exclusion is not a “treatment limitation” as defined by the MHPAEA.

Attorney Michelle Capezza of Epstein Becker Green, who advises employers on how to keep their benefit plans in compliance with the law, said the guidance struck her as “curious,” and that she hopes the agency will flesh it out more before finalizing it.

“I think they need to clarify that a little more,” Capezza said. “They’re calling out a particular disorder on its own and saying there would be no violation if an employer excluded all benefits for that particular disorder. But bipolar seems to be a very common mental health issue, so why would you have mental health benefits and not cover bipolar? It just seems a little strange.”