U.S. families spent less out-of-pocket for their children’s mental health services after enforcement of the federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, but the cost reductions were modest and likely did little to reduce the financial burden on those with the most intensive needs, according to a study led by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The study appears in the August 2018 issue of Pediatrics, which was published online July 23.
The study, “Federal Parity and Spending for Mental Illness,” analyzed inpatient, outpatient and pharmaceutical claims from three national insurers for Jan. 1, 2008, through Dec. 31, 2012, as provided by the Health Care Cost Institute. Researchers identified children ages 3 through 18 years with mental health conditions who were continuously enrolled in medical, mental health and pharmacy coverage. They found that those enrolled in plans subject to parity spent on average $140 less annually in out-of-pocket costs for mental health services than would have been expected given trends in the comparison group.
Dr. Alene Kennedy-Hendricks, assistant scientist in the Bloomberg School’s department of health policy management, is the study’s first author. Other Bloomberg School researchers who participated in the study include Dr. Elizabeth A. Stuart, associate dean for education and professor in the department of mental health, Dr. Emma E. McGinty, assistant professor in the department of health policy and management, and Dr. Colleen L. Barry, chair, department of health policy and management and Fred & Julie Soper Professorship Professor.