New Federal Study Finds Substance Abuse/Mental Health Treatment More Expensive in the US South

According to a study by the US Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, “about 11 percent of people using outpatient mental health and substance abuse treatment in the US South used more than 5 percent of their family’s annual income to cover their out-of-pocket treatment costs over the period of 2001-2005.”
In other areas in the United States, the financial burden because of treatment ranged from eight to ten percent. The study found that 10 percent of individuals undergoing treatment for mental issues and substance abuse are compelled to allocate over five percent of their households’ annual income for these services. Expenses cover out-of-pocket costs of consults with psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists and other specialty providers. It also included treatment for mental health administered by primary care physicians as well as the out-of-pocket cost of psychotropic medication.
The highest percentage of out-of-pocket spending for treatment are from those living in the US South region. They have been found to be most likely to use prescription drugs to treat mental health and substance abuse which was equivalent to 39 percent of the cost of medications.
Lehigh University economics professor Chad Meyerhoefer, Ph.d and Samuel Zuvekas, Ph.D., economist from the AHRQ also assessed the differences in the financial burden of mental health care and substance abuse treatment across the states. For instance, the study found that “20 percent fewer people used mental health treatment in Illinois than in Ohio, but people with mental health treatment in Illinois paid almost twice as much out of pocket.”
The researchers also discovered that prescription medications make up more than 60 percent of out-of-pocket expenditures for outpatient treatment of mental health conditions. Federal parity legislations that have just been enacted still do not cover the issue of out-of-pocket spending for medications. The researchers recommend a look into the possibility of getting equal coverage for both Medicare and various private health plans. It’s important to draft legislations to ease the financial burden of obtaining treatment for mental health and substance abuse in order to help homes recover from the damage that these conditions can cause.
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