The health reform debate has heated up, featuring proposals from both the House and Senate. However, little of the discussion has focused on the area of mental health and substance use disorders. More than 33 million Americans are treated annually for mental health and substance use disorders. Mental illness and substance use disorders can have a profound impact on a person’s overall health and well-being. The passage of the Wellstone-Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act in 2008 indicated that access to mental health and substance use disorder services is a priority. Yet there are concerns that the cost of accessing this care could rise as mental health parity regulations are implemented concurrent with the possibility that health reform legislation might include expansion of access to mental health services.
What mental health and substance use disorder provisions are included in the health reform proposals? What cautions exist regarding the inclusion of mental health/substance use disorder benefits in health care plans? How do the quality and cost of these services, including those available for addiction disorders, fit into the discussion? How might reform legislation affect mental health parity?
To address these and related questions, the Alliance for Health Reform, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Open Society Institute sponsored a July 17 briefing. Panelists were Charles Ingoglia, vice president, public policy, National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare; Eric Goplerud, director, Ensuring Solutions to Alcohol Problems, George Washington University; and Michael Hogan, commissioner, New York Office of Mental Health, and former chairman of the President’s mental health commission. Ed Howard of the Alliance moderated.
Copies of a new white paper, “Unforeseen Benefits: Addiction Treatment Reduces Health Care Costs,” from the Open Society Institute’s Closing the Addiction Treatment Gap program, were made available at the briefing. The paper reports on studies showing that addiction treatment can significantly reduce emergency room, inpatient and total health care costs.
Full Transcript (Adobe Acrobat PDF)