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Study Finds Vermont's Parity Law Effective

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As the U.S. Congress debates a behavioral healthcare parity law, a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) study shows that Vermont's mental-health parity law is effective in controlling costs, the Associated Press reported Sept. 4.

Vermont's parity law took effect in 1998, requiring insurance companies to provide coverage for mental-health services at the same levels as physical health coverage.

The SAMHSA study found that in the first two years after the parity law took effect, mental-health and addiction treatment spending in Vermont dropped by 8 to 18 percent.

“Managed care for mental-health and substance-abuse services was an important factor in controlling costs following implementation of parity,” the study said. “Overall, parity for mental-health and substance-abuse benefits was achieved in Vermont.”

Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.), who has sponsored parity legislation in Congress and requested the SAMHSA study, said the Vermont parity law allowed state residents “to access more effective services, at lower costs to themselves, and at minimal cost to employers.”

Vermont's parity law could be used as a model for the national bill.

Editor's note: as of this writing, a PDF version of the report is available for download at www.mathematica-mpr.com.

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