Coverage expansion won't increase behavioral health admissions

Expanded health insurance coverage for young adults doesn't mean they will use more hospital-based care for behavioral health, concludes a study published online yesterday in JAMA Psychiatry.

The study looked at healthcare utilization among young adults with behavioral health diagnoses in Massachusetts versus other states before and after Massachusetts implemented its 2006 healthcare reform law. It found young adults experienced fewer inpatient admissions for behavioral health disorders, according to researchers from Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice, in Lebanon, N.H.

Inpatient admission rates for primary diagnoses of any behavioral health disorder dropped by two admissions per 1,000 between 2003 and 2009, 0.38 admissions for depression and 1.3 admissions for substance use disorders.

The numbers offer a snapshot of how expanded health insurance coverage can improve access to behavioral health treatment, the study states.

The declining use of hospital-based care largely came from fewer admissions and emergency department visits for substance abuse--suggesting providers are appropriately guiding those patients to outpatient facilities, according to Family Practice News.

Previous JAMA Psychiatry research looked at health insurance reforms and substance use treatment outside of the hospital setting. National healthcare reform's expansion of federal parity legislation, which prevents payers from limiting substance abuse coverage more than they do for other conditions, led to an increase in substance abuse treatment rates at specialty facilities, according to an October JAMA Psychiatry study. The enactment of any parity law increased the treatment rate by 9 percent in all specialty substance abuse disorder treatment facilities and 15 percent in those facilities accepting private insurance.

Despite mental health parity laws for health insurers, a December study found half of psychiatrists reject private and federal insurance. The study authors posited that psychiatrists aren't happy with reimbursement rates, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

For more:
- here's the study abstract
- read the Family Practice News article