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Does the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 Work in Reducing Spending for Mental Illness? :

August 2, 2018

In 2008, the US government passed the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) requiring health insurance carriers to pay the same as their medical and surgical coverage for mental health care for children.

In 2008, the US government passed the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) requiring health insurance carriers to pay the same as their medical and surgical coverage for mental health care for children. The goal of this legislation was to reduce the financial burden on families facing mental health care costs. Did it work?  Kennedy Hendricks et al. (10.1542/peds.2017-2618) looked into this question by comparing children in insurance plans subject to parity with those not subject to parity and found that while there was increased financial protection for these children with mental health conditions, the amount of relief was negligible when compared to the total financial burden for these families. So what do we do about this?  We asked health policy expert and former AAP President Dr. Jim Perrin to weigh in with an accompanying commentary (10.1542/peds.2018-1572). Dr. Perrin points out that with the MHPAEA Act in place, the amount of mental health issues being considered still more than doubled at a far greater rate than the savings achieved by parity.  Given the paucity of dedicated child psychiatrists and psychologists to care for these children, Dr. Perrin calls for more integration of behavior and mental health into the primary care setting to enhance prevention and not just treat the outcomes that derive from lack of prevention.  Providing less out-of-pocket expenses might seem like a good thing for these families—but the rate of worsening mental health disorders in pediatric patients calls for a new set of preventive strategies,  with suggestions made by both the authors and Dr. Perrin as to next steps.  Read this study and commentary and you’ll see what we mean.

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