State Variations In The Out-Of-Pocket Spending Burden For Outpatient Mental Health Treatment

Zuvekas, Samuel H.; Meyerhoefer, Chad D.
May 2009
Health Affairs;May/Jun2009, Vol. 28 Issue 3, p713
Academic Journal
We examine the potential of mental health/substance abuse (MH/SA) parity laws to reduce the out-of-pocket spending burden for outpatient treatment at the state level by exploring cross-state variations and their causes, as well as the provisions of MH/SA parity laws. We find modest (yet important) variation in out-of-pocket burden across states overall, but—because prescription medications account for two-thirds of out-of-pocket spending and are generally beyond the scope of recently enacted federal parity laws—evidence suggests that those laws will do little to reduce the observed burden or its variation. Other policy measures, designed to expand and improve health insurance coverage or reduce racial/ethnic disparities, could have a more profound impact.


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