A November report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the effects of the 2008 mental health and addiction parity law appears to have gone relatively unnoticed in the field, perhaps because its findings uncovered few dramatic changes in employer-based insurance coverage.
According to the analysis, only 2% of employers reported discontinuing coverage of mental health and substance use disorders (or substance use disorders only) in the current plan year. The GAO analysis involved 168 employers that responded to a request for data; the GAO does not consider these results to be broadly generalizable.
In other findings in the GAO’s report GAO-12-63 to congressional committees:
· Survey respondents cited removal of treatment limitations such as caps on allowed office visits as the most common change to behavioral health benefits in their insurance plans.
· Thirty-four percent of responding employers said at least one mental health or substance use diagnosis was excluded from their most popular insurance plan in the current plan year, down from 39% in 2008.
· Copayment amounts for plan members remained virtually unchanged among the responding employers.
· Information on how parity has affected access to and use of behavioral health services remains difficult to interpret. The GAO reports that some analyses have found that there has been little to no effect, while other studies have established a link between restrictions on coverage and decreases in use of services.