Effect of Insurance Parity on Substance Abuse Treatment

Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, 180 Longwood Ave., Boston, MA 02115, USA.
Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.) (Impact Factor: 1.99). 02/2011; 62(2):129-34. DOI: 10.1176/
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT This study examined the impact of insurance parity on the use, cost, and quality of substance abuse treatment.
The authors compared substance abuse treatment spending and utilization from 1999 to 2002 for continuously enrolled beneficiaries covered by Federal Employees Health Benefit (FEHB) plans, which require parity coverage of mental health and substance use disorders, with spending and utilization among beneficiaries in a matched set of health plans without parity coverage. Logistic regression models estimated the probability of any substance abuse service use. Conditional on use, linear models estimated total and out-of-pocket spending. Logistic regression models for three quality indicators for substance abuse treatment were also estimated: identification of adult enrollees with a new substance abuse diagnosis, treatment initiation, and treatment engagement. Difference-in-difference estimates were computed as (postparity - preparity) differences in outcomes in plans without parity subtracted from those in FEHB plans.
There were no significant differences between FEHB and non-FEHB plans in rates of change in average utilization of substance abuse services. Conditional on service utilization, the rate of substance abuse treatment out-of-pocket spending declined significantly in the FEHB plans compared with the non-FEHB plans (mean difference=-$101.09, 95% confidence interval [CI]=-$198.06 to -$4.12), whereas changes in total plan spending per user did not differ significantly. With parity, more patients had new diagnoses of a substance use disorder (difference-in-difference risk=.10%, CI=.02% to .19%). No statistically significant differences were found for rates of initiation and engagement in substance abuse treatment.
Findings suggest that for continuously enrolled populations, providing parity of substance abuse treatment coverage improved insurance protection but had little impact on utilization, costs for plans, or quality of care.

Download full-text


Available from: Vanessa Azzone, Jul 01, 2015
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The impact of parity coverage on the quantity of behavioral health services used by enrollees and on the prices of these services was examined in a set of Federal Employees Health Benefit (FEHB) Program plans. After parity implementation, the quantity of services used in the FEHB plans declined in five service categories, compared with plans that did not have parity coverage. The decline was significant for all service types except inpatient care. Because a previous study of the FEHB Program found that total spending on behavioral health services did not increase after parity implementation, it can be inferred that average prices must have increased over the period. The finding of a decline in service use and increase in prices provides an empirical window on what might be expected after implementation of the federal parity law and the parity requirement under the health care reform law.
    Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.) 02/2012; 63(2):107-9. DOI:10.1176/ · 1.99 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) requires commercial group health plans offering coverage for mental health and substance abuse services to offer those services at a level that is no more restrictive than for medical-surgical services. The MHPAEA is notable in restricting the extent to which health plans can use managed care tools on the behavioral health benefit. The only precedent for this approach is Oregon's 2007 state parity law. This study aims to provide evidence on the effect of comprehensive parity on utilization and expenditures for substance abuse treatment services. A difference-in-difference analysis compared individuals in five Oregon commercial plans (n=103,820) from 2005 to 2008 to comparison groups exempt from parity in Oregon (n=19,633) and Washington (n=39,447). The primary outcome measures were annual use and total expenditures. Spending for alcohol treatment services demonstrated statistically significant increase in comparison to the Oregon and Washington comparison groups. Spending on other drug abuse treatment services was not associated with statistically significant spending increases, and the effect of parity on overall spending (alcohol plus other drug abuse treatment services) was positive but not statistically significant from zero. Oregon's experience suggests that behavioral health insurance parity that places restrictions on how plans manage the benefit may lead to increases in expenditures for alcohol treatment services but is unlikely to lead to increases in spending for other drug abuse treatment services.
    Drug and alcohol dependence 02/2012; 124(3):340-6. DOI:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2012.02.006 · 3.28 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: OBJECTIVE The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act requires insurance parity for mental health/substance use disorder and general medical services. Previous research found that parity did not increase mental health/substance use disorder spending and lowered out-of-pocket spending. Whether parity's effects differ by diagnosis is unknown. The authors examined this question in the context of parity implementation in the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program. METHOD The authors compared mental health/substance use disorder treatment use and spending before and after parity (2000 and 2002, respectively) for two groups: FEHB enrollees diagnosed in 1999 with bipolar disorder, major depression, or adjustment disorder (N=19,094) and privately insured enrollees unaffected by the policy in a comparison national sample (N=10,521). Separate models were fitted for each diagnostic group. A difference-in-difference design was used to control for secular time trends and to better reflect the specific impact of parity on spending and utilization. RESULTS Total spending was unchanged among enrollees with bipolar disorder and major depression but decreased for those with adjustment disorder (-$62, 99.2% CI=-$133, -$11). Out-of-pocket spending decreased for all three groups (bipolar disorder: -$148, 99.2% CI=-$217, -$85; major depression: -$100, 99.2% CI=-$123, -$77; adjustment disorder: -$68, 99.2% CI=-$84, -$54). Total annual utilization (e.g., medication management visits, psychotropic prescriptions, and mental health/substance use disorder hospitalization bed days) remained unchanged across all diagnoses. Annual psychotherapy visits decreased significantly only for individuals with adjustment disorders (-12%, 99.2% CI=-19%, -4%). CONCLUSIONS Parity implemented under managed care improved financial protection and differentially affected spending and psychotherapy utilization across groups. There was some evidence that resources were preferentially preserved for diagnoses that are typically more severe or chronic and reduced for diagnoses expected to be less so.
    American Journal of Psychiatry 02/2013; 170(2):180-7. DOI:10.1176/appi.ajp.2012.12030392 · 13.56 Impact Factor