Mental Health Costs More Out of Pocket, Despite Parity Act

Although the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (Parity Act) increased access to mental health and substance use services in hospitals, according to new research from the Health Care Cost Institute, individuals continued to pay more out of pocket for substance use admissions than for other types of hospital admissions.

The Parity Act requires large group health plans to make behavioral health coverage rules similar to those that cover medical/surgical benefits. Large group plans were also required to make copays, deductibles, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket maximums for behavioral health care equivalent with the most common medical/surgical treatments.

The report, the first of its kind to look at hospital spending, utilization, prices, and out-of-pocket payments for mental health and substance use admissions, studied people who were 65 and under and had employer-sponsored health insurance. It found that spending on hospital admissions for mental health and substance use grew faster than spending on medical/surgical admissions between 2007 and 2011. Furthermore, patients with mental health conditions paid 10 percent of their hospital bill in 2011 and patients with substance use disorders paid 12 percent of their hospital bill. Medical or surgical patients paid just 4 percent of the total bill in comparison.

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