The June 2016 issue of the journal Health Affairs, supported by a grant from the California Health Care Foundation, explores the challenges facing those trying to integrate behavioral and physical health care to improve treatment of the whole patient. As shown in this special themed issue, behavioral health care is a broad subject touching on access to mental health practitioners, substance use disorders, racial and ethnic disparities, parity laws, the criminal justice system, health insurance benefits, quality measurement, and many other topics.
Of the 29 articles in the subscription-based Health Affairs website, CHCF has chosen six for which to provide free access because they examine issues especially relevant to California:
- “Risk Adjustment Simulation: Plans May Have Incentives to Distort Mental Health and Substance Use Coverage,” by Ellen Montz et al., recommends that policymakers modify the risk-adjustment formula as a way of addressing systematic underpayment for people with behavioral health diagnoses.
- “Federal Parity in the Evolving Mental Health and Addiction Care Landscape,” by Colleen L. Barry, Howard H. Goldman, and Haiden A. Huskamp, explains that while parity has become the law of the land, for all intents and purposes it has yet to reach certain groups. A subtle aspect of parity regulation is its requirement that parity be achieved in process, not outcome.
- “Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs Are Associated with Sustained Reductions in Opioid Prescribing by Physicians,” by Yuhua Bao et al., reports that monitoring programs led to a more than 30% decrease in the rate of prescribing Schedule II opioids.
- “Quality Measures for Mental Health and Substance Use: Gaps, Opportunities, and Challenges,” by Harold Alan Pincus et al., provides an overview of the state of quality measurement in behavioral health, identifies key priorities for measure development, and describes the most important challenges.
- “Removing Obstacles to Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Behavioral Health Care,” by Margarita Alegría et al., identifies common mistaken assumptions about minority populations that could, if not corrected, reinforce existing disparities in behavioral health services.
- “Access to Mental Health Care Increased but Not for Substance Use, While Disparities Remain,” by Timothy B. Creedon and Benjamin Lê Cook, explains how coverage gains in 2014 resulted in increased mental health treatment for whites and Latinos but not for African Americans.