Mental health parity laws require insurers to extend comparable benefits for mental and physical health care. Proponents argue that by placing mental health services alongside physical health services, such laws can help ensure needed treatment and destigmatize mental illness. Opponents counter that such mandates are costly or unnecessary. The authors offer a sociological account of the diffusion and spatial distribution of state mental health parity laws. An event history analysis identifies four factors as especially important: diffusion of law, political ideology, the stability of mental health advocacy organizations and the relative health of state economies. Mental health parity is least likely to be established during times of high state unemployment and under the leadership of conservative state legislatures.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We would like to thank Cynthia Goff for her helpful insights about health care policy, as well as Kim Gardner, Andrew Halpern-Manners, Wesley Longhofer, Karen Lutfey, Donna McAlpine, Heather McLaughlin, John Robert Warren, and Suzy McElrath for helpful comments and other assistance. Support for this research was provided by a predoctoral National Research Service Award from the National Institute of Mental Health (T23-MH19893) to Dr. Hernandez and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Investigator Award in Health Policy Research to Dr. Uggen.
- mental health
- mental health policy
- mental health services