Med Care. 2021 Aug 6. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000001619. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Mental health insurance laws are intended to improve access to needed treatments and prevent discrimination in coverage for mental health conditions and other medical conditions.
OBJECTIVES: The aim was to estimate the impact of these policies on mental health treatment utilization in a nationally representative longitudinal sample of youth followed through adulthood.
METHODS: We used data from the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth and the Mental Health Insurance Laws data set. We specified a zero-inflated negative binomial regression model to estimate the relationship between mental health treatment utilization and law exposure while controlling for other explanatory variables.
RESULTS: We found that the number of mental health treatment visits declined as cumulative exposure to mental health insurance legislation increased; a 10 unit (or 10.3%) increase in the law exposure strength resulted in a 4% decline in the number of mental health visits. We also found that state mental health insurance laws are associated with reducing mental health treatments and disparities within at-risk subgroups.
CONCLUSIONS: Prolonged exposure to comprehensive mental health laws across a person’s childhood and adolescence may reduce the demand for mental health visitations in adulthood, hence, reducing the burden on the payors and consumers. Further, as the exposure to the mental health law strengthened, the gap between at-risk subgroups was narrowed or eliminated at the highest policy exposure levels.
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