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Friday, September 23, 2011

Financing and Delivery of Behavioral Health Services and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Amanda K. Sarata
Specialist in Health Policy

Erin Bagalman
Analyst in Health Policy

Behavioral health disorders (including both mental disorders and substance use disorders) affect a large number of people and contribute costs to the health care system, even as indicated treatment is often not received by individuals in need. In the United States, an estimated 26% of noninstitutionalized adults experience behavioral health disorders in a given year; over the course of a lifetime, the estimate rises to 46%. One study estimated spending on behavioral health care in 2005 to be $135 billion, of which $40 billion was paid by the federal government (including $10 billion by Medicare) and $44 billion by state governments. Both higher and lower cost estimates have been found in other studies. Among U.S. adults suffering from a behavioral health disorder severe enough to interfere with major life activities in 2009, 40% received no treatment; despite spending on behavioral health care, cost remains the most common barrier to treatment reported by adults with unmet need.

The federal government has a role in both the financing and delivery of behavioral health care services, as a payer, regulator, and provider, and as such, Congress may have an interest in behavioral health care broadly. This interest was reflected in the recently enacted health reform law (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act [PPACA], P.L. 111-148, as amended). Although transforming the behavioral health care delivery system was not an explicit focus of the law, it includes sections that are expected to increase access to behavioral health services through changes to the financing and delivery of health care services.

This report provides an overview of sections in the health reform law that are expected to affect the financing and delivery of behavioral health care services. Access to health care services is determined by multiple factors, including (among other things) financing arrangements and covered benefits. PPACA may increase access to behavioral health services by increasing the availability and affordability of financing arrangements; the law also contains sections that will affect both the coverage of behavioral health services, as well as the conditions under which those services are covered. In addition, PPACA contains sections that are likely to affect the way in which health care services are delivered, specifically through changes to the workforce, the safety net, and new care delivery models.

The report concludes by presenting the relevant sections in a series of nine tables: (1) essential health benefits; (2) mental health parity; (3) private health insurance; (4) Medicare; (5) Medicaid; (6) safety net services; (7) workforce; (8) miscellaneous sections (e.g., sections on research, education, or community-based services, among others); and (9) relevant Indian Health Service (IHS) sections (in an appendix).

Date of Report:
September 19, 2011
Number of Pages:
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Price: $29.95

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