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Friedman SA, Thalmayer AG, Azocar F, Xu H, Harwood JM, Ong MK, Johnson LL, Ettner SL. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act Evaluation Study: Impact on Mental Health Financial Requirements among Commercial "Carve-In" Plans. Health services research. 2018 Feb 1; 53(1):366-388.
OBJECTIVE: Did mental health cost-sharing decrease following implementation of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA)? DATA SOURCE: Specialty mental health copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles, 2008-2013, were obtained from benefits databases for "carve-in" plans from a national commercial managed behavioral health organization. STUDY DESIGN: Bivariate and regression-adjusted analyses compare the probability of use and (conditional) level of cost-sharing pre- and postparity. An interaction term is added to compare differential levels of pre- and postparity cost-sharing changes for plans that were and were not already at parity pre-MHPAEA. FINDINGS: Controlling for employer/plan characteristics, MHPAEA is associated with higher intermediate care copayments ($15.9) but lower outpatient ($2.6) copayments among in-network-only plans. Among plans with in- and out-of-network benefits, MHPAEA is associated with lower inpatient ($23.2) and outpatient ($2.5) copayments, but increases in inpatient and intermediate in-network and out-of-network coinsurance (about 1 percentage point). Among the few plans not at parity pre-MHPAEA, changes in use and level of cost-sharing associated with MHPAEA were more dramatic. CONCLUSION: Mixed evidence that MHPAEA led to more generous mental health benefits may stem from the finding that many plans were already at parity pre-MHPAEA. Future policy focus in mental health may shift to slowing growth in cost-sharing for all health services.