U.S. alcohol treatment admissions after the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act: Do state parity laws and race/ethnicity make a difference?

Research paper by Nina N Mulia, Camillia K CK Lui, Yu Y Ye, Meenakshi S MS Subbaraman, William C WC Kerr, Thomas K TK Greenfield

Indexed on: 01 Oct '20Published on: 28 Aug '19Published in: Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment


The U.S. Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) was a landmark federal policy aimed at increasing access to substance use treatment, yet studies have found relatively weak impacts on treatment utilization. The present study considers whether there may be moderating effects of pre-existing state parity laws and differential changes in treatment rates across racial/ethnic groups. We analyzed data from SAMHSA'S Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) from 1999 to 2013, assessing changes in alcohol treatment admission rates across states with heterogeneous, pre-existing parity laws. NIAAA's Alcohol Policy Information System data were used to code states into five groups based on the presence and strength of states' pre-MHPAEA mandates for insurance coverage of alcohol treatment and parity (weak; coverage no parity; partial parity if coverage offered; coverage and partial parity; strong). Regression models included state fixed effects and a cubic time trend adjusting for state- and year-level covariates, and assessed MHPAEA main effects and interactions with state parity laws in the overall sample and racial/ethnic subgroups. While we found no significant main effects of federal parity on alcohol treatment rates, there was a significantly greater increase in treatment rates in states requiring health plans to cover alcohol treatment and having some pre-existing parity. This was seen overall and in all three racial/ethnic groups (increasing by 25% in whites, 26% in blacks, and 42% in Hispanics above the expected treatment rate for these groups). Post-MHPAEA, the alcohol treatment admissions rate in these states rose to the level of states with the strongest pre-existing parity laws. The MHPAEA was associated with increased alcohol treatment rates for diverse racial/ethnic groups in states with both alcohol treatment coverage mandates and some prior parity protections. This suggests the importance of the local policy context in understanding early effects of the MHPAEA. Copyright © 2019 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.