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By On December 18th, 2018

Treatment for mental health and addiction is on the rise thanks to key laws

Ten years after the passing of legislation requiring insurance companies to cover behavioral and mental health issues like they cover physical health conditions, a new study shows that overall treatment for mental illness and substance abuse issues have risen significantly.

According to a new analysis of individual procedures or services covered by private insurance companies from 2007 to 2017, independent non-profit FAIR Health says the use of behavioral health services has increased more than 300 percent.

In particular, treatment for addiction or substance abuse has jumped drastically. For example, treatment for abuse and addiction to amphetamines has increased more than 3,000 percent. Treatment for those addicted to barbiturates also climbed 2,233 percent, while treatment for hallucinogens increased 2,055 percent.

It is likely that treatment for opioid addiction and misuse has similarly leaped over the past decade, following new laws and regulations designed to increase treatment for the opioid crisis facing America. However, the study did not include numbers specifically addressing opioid treatment.

For comparison, treatment for anxiety diagnoses rose more than 240 percent.

A number of factors, such as increased awareness of the risks of drug abuse and the importance of early mental health treatment, could have contributed to the jump in treatment across the country. However, experts point to the passage of two specific laws that increased access to insurance for driving the drastic rise in treatment claims.

As The Washington Post explains, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 specifically required insurance companies to cover mental health and substance abuse services in the same way as medical and surgical procedures. Additionally, coverage was expanded even more under the 2010 Affordable Care Act which made behavioral health an “essential health benefit” which required coverage under individual and small-group plans.

FAIR Health president Robin Gelburd specifically cited the passage of the Affordable Care Act for driving the huge spike between 2010 and 2011.

“It almost suggests there was a need that had been unmet until such time that people were getting proper coverage,” Gelburd said in an interview, adding the data suggests “clearly there is a before and after of utilization that would suggest people recognize they had the ability to plan for and cover expenses they may not have been able to before.”

Although mental health treatment hasn’t risen as dramatically as substance abuse treatment, the study still shows significant increases over the past decade. Specifically, it found a 242 percent increase for anxiety diagnoses, 177 percent increase for PTSD treatment, 172 percent increase for major depressive disorder, and 103 percent increase for bipolar disorder.

While we are seeing promising increases in access to treatment in the study, Gelburd says the findings also raise a number of questions, such as:

“Are there gaps that could be filled? Regulations or statutes that could be passed to render it easier to gain access to that care?”

“In terms of the volume of the increase, it at least should alert those within the health-care system to do a number of things,” noted Gelburd.

If you believe you or someone you love may be living with a mental illness or addiction issues, please call Brookhaven for help at 888-298-HOPE (4673). We accept a wide range of insurance options, as well as VA, Tricare, and other forms of Government funding.

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