Insurers take on larger portion of mental health spending

Private and federal insurers have gradually absorbed a bigger chunk of spending on mental health services over the last three decades, even as spending on substance abuse treatment has remained steady, according to a study published in Health Affairs.

Statistics pulled from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicated that:

  • More than two-thirds of mental health spending was funded by private insurers, Medicare and Medicaid in 2014, up from 44 percent in 1986.
  • Those same payers accounted for 46 percent of spending on substance abuse treatment in 2014, a slight increase from 45 percent nearly 30 years earlier, and up from 41 percent in 2009.
  • From 2009 through 2014, overall spending on mental health and substance abuse grew faster than overall health spending.
  • Private insurers represented the largest chunk of mental health expenditures, accounting for 28 percent in 2014.
  • However, federal and state insurers still carry the bulk of the financial load when it comes to substance abuse treatment, after a distinct shift in the 1990s. Medicaid accounted for 21 percent of substance abuse spending in 2014, while private insurers represented 18 percent.

Previous studies show that insurers are taking on more costs as companies search for ways to combat opioid addiction.  Amid efforts by the Obama administration to increase enforcement of the mental health parity law, insurers are also breaking ground on screening programs and predictive models to identify and treat mental health patients.

For more:
- read the Health Affairs study