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: 2.41). 02/2011; 62(2):129-34. DOI: 10.1176/
Source: PubMed


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.

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    • " Act was passed that legislated that payment (and limits) for mental health and provision of mental health services (including substance abuse services) had to be essentially equivalent for medical and mental health care. Despite concerns that costs would rise precipitously, research reflects little impact on utilization, cost, or quality of care (Azzone, et. al., 2011). Health care reform, passed in 2010, offers a unique opportunity for the provision of mental health care; however, ongoing challenges exist regarding the limitations of the mental health care workforce and the interface between mental health and primary care (please see Chapter 14 for detailed discussion)."

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    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.
    Preview · Article · Feb 2012 · Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.)
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    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.
    No preview · Article · Feb 2012 · Drug and alcohol dependence
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