Harvard Mental Health Letter

In Brief: Equal treatment for mental health: Costs and benefits

In Brief

Equal treatment for mental health: Costs and benefits

Health plans can provide equal benefits for mental illness without incurring runaway costs, according to a study published in March in the New England Journal of Medicine, but only with some form of managed care.

Since 2001, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program has provided the same coverage for mental health, substance abuse, and general medical payments. The arrangement is called parity.

Analysts compared each of seven plans authorized under the federal program with an otherwise similar private plan that did not offer parity. For each plan, over a two-year period, they recorded the amount of use, total expenses, and out-of-pocket spending by patients for mental health services.

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