The Costs Of Mental Health Parity: Still An Impediment?

Health Affairs
Vol. 25, No. 3
May/June 2006
Barry, C.L., Frank, R.G., and McGuire, T.G.

Parity in mental health benefits rectifies unfairness in health insurance coverage and reduces financial risk for those with mental illness. However, increased coverage for mental illness has been seen as creating inefficiencies and increasing total spending, based largely on results from the RAND Health Insurance Experiment conducted in the 1970s. Newer evidence suggests that cost control techniques associated with managed care give health plans alternatives to discriminatory coverage for containing costs. We review both eras of research on mental health insurance and conclude that comprehensive parity implemented in the context of managed care would have little impact on total spending.

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