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MACPAC Notes Behavioral Healthcare Parity Compliance Challenges

By Kelsey Waddill

The Mental Health Parity Act (MHPA) of 1996, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA), and the Affordable Care Act represented three major regulatory milestones in extending coverage for mental and behavioral health.

However, MACPAC researchers found that these laws—specifically MHPAEA—did not achieve the goal of broadening access to mental and behavioral healthcare.

The researchers compared behavioral healthcare outpatient, inpatient, prescription drugs, and emergency care benefits with the same benefits medical and surgical care.

State and managed care organization documentation informed the researchers’ efforts. They analyzed mental health, behavioral health, surgical, and medical care with respect to lifetime and annual dollar limits, financial requirements, quantitative treatment limitations, non-quantitative treatment limitations, and information availability.

MACPAC noted that the lack of progress in these areas could be attributable to the manner in which states document parity compliance. Instead of requiring broader access to mental and behavioral healthcare or specifying services that must be covered, MHPAEA targeted its efforts on certain barriers to access.While MHPAEA successfully raised awareness about the need for greater access to care in behavioral healthcare, it did not force monumental shifts in the direction of greater access. Rather, states made minor adjustments to their behavioral […]

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