Association of Federal Mental Health Parity Legislation With Health Care Use and Spending Among High Utilizers of Services.

View Abstract

BACKGROUND

Decades-long efforts to require parity between behavioral and physical health insurance coverage culminated in the comprehensive federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.

OBJECTIVES

To determine the association between federal parity and changes in mental health care utilization and spending, particularly among high utilizers.

RESEARCH DESIGN

Difference-in-differences analyses compared changes before and after exposure to federal parity versus a comparison group.

SUBJECTS

Commercially insured enrollees aged 18-64 with a mental health disorder drawn from 24 states where self-insured employers were newly subject to federal parity in 2010 (exposure group), but small employers were exempt before-and-after parity (comparison group). A total of 11,226 exposure group members were propensity score matched (1:1) to comparison group members, all of whom were continuously enrolled from 1 year prepolicy to 1-2 years postpolicy.

MEASURES

Mental health outpatient visits, out-of-pocket spending for these visits, emergency department visits, and hospitalizations.

RESULTS

Relative to comparison group members, mean out-of-pocket spending per outpatient mental health visit declined among exposure enrollees by $0.74 (1.40, 0.07) and $2.03 (3.17, 0.89) in years 1 and 2 after the policy, respectively. Corresponding annual mental health visits increased by 0.31 (0.12, 0.51) and 0.59 (0.37, 0.81) per enrollee. Difference-in-difference changes were larger for the highest baseline quartile mental health care utilizers [year 2: 0.76 visits per enrollee (0.14, 1.38); relative increase 10.07%] and spenders [year 2: $-2.28 (-3.76, -0.79); relative reduction 5.91%]. There were no significant difference-in-differences changes in emergency department visits or hospitalizations.

CONCLUSIONS

In 24 states, commercially insured high utilizers of mental health services experienced modest increases in outpatient mental health visits 2 years postparity.

Investigators
Abbreviation
Med Care
Publication Date
2019-02-21
Pubmed ID
30807450
Medium
Print-Electronic
Full Title
Association of Federal Mental Health Parity Legislation With Health Care Use and Spending Among High Utilizers of Services.
Authors
Haffajee RL, Mello MM, Zhang F, Busch AB, Zaslavsky AM, Wharam JF