Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Department of Counterintuition…

And yes, I (think) I just made up a new word. But it seems to fit; according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine:
The study purports to show that excising limits on services for mental health and substance abuse does not drive up health insurance costs, and eliminating caps (e.g. on the number of therapy sessions or days in a psych ward) does not boost spending. The "gotcha," though, is interesting: in this study, parity went hand-in-hand with managed care, which has had something of a cool reception from the behavioral health community.
The study compared several federal (government) plans that offered mental health and substance-abuse services equal to general medical benefits to plans that did not offer such cover. Of the seven, only one showed a considerable increase in usage of services, while another showed a marked decrease in usage; the rest showed little change. “Plan costs decreased in three plans and did not change in the other four. Out-of-pocket spending on mental health services decreased in five of the seven plans, according to the research.
While I’m skeptical that adding more covered benefits doesn’t increase utilization, and costs, this study does make a certain sense: after all, the insurance industry has been touting the case for managed care for a long time, so it seems consistent that mental health cover could benefit from a little, as well.
Puts my mind at ease.
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