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Substance use and mental health spending projected to decline relative to rest of healthcare

August 6, 2014
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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An anticipated slowdown in spending on psychiatric medications is being cited among the reasons for a projection that spending on substance use and mental health disorders as a share of total health spending will decrease through 2020.

A study published this week in Health Affairs states that spending on behavioral health disorders is expected to decline from 7.4% of total health spending in 2009 to 6.5% in 2020. Actual dollars spent on substance use and mental health disorders are projected to increase from $172 billion in 2009 to $281 billion in 2020, according to the study from Truven Health Analytics.

The healthcare analytics company's study identifies two major factors from the mental health industry that it expects to drive the slower pace of growth for behavioral health spending relative to other spending: expiration of patent protection for several brand-name psychiatric medications, and reductions in spending for mental health treatment in state-run psychiatric hospitals.

Study authors also point out that as a result of legislation such as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and insurance parity, behavioral health spending in 2020 is expected to be 2.7% higher than it would have been absent these federal initiatives.

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