Study finds mass behavioral health plan is a good value

A study released by the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Corporations of Massachusetts, Inc. (MHSACM), a statewide organization representing over 100 community-based mental health and substance abuse service providers, found that the MassHealth behavioral health carve-out provides efficient and effective mental health and substance abuse services and is of good taxpayer value to the Commonwealth.

The Romney Administration is currently considering dismantling the program.

"The behavioral health carve-out has encouraged cost-effective and innovative ways of delivering care," said Elizabeth Funk, President and CEO of MHSACM. "At the same time, it has been able to achieve a balance between saving the state money and providing adequate access for consumers."

In 1992, Massachusetts became the first state to implement a statewide, managed care "carve-out" of Medicaid-funded mental health and substance abuse services. The measure was designed to save the state money while maintaining behavioral health care access and quality. The carve-out program has been extensively studied, but until recently comparative data on the managed care organizations have not been available. This report compares the Primary Care Clinician Plan carve-out organization and MassHealth-contracted managed care organizations along access, quality, and cost measures.

"On first blush, it appeared that the MassHealth behavioral health carve-out to the Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership costs substantially more than the same services provided by MassHealth managed care organizations," stated Donald Shepard, the author of the study and a professor at the Schneider Institute for Health Policy at Brandeis University's Heller School. "However, the analysis in this report found that after correcting for the differences in the types of populations served, the cost per person was identical. It also found that the MBHP carve-out had better access to mental health and substance abuse services and thus seemed to be providing the Commonwealth and MassHealth members good value and should not be disbanded."

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MHSACM members are the primary providers of mental health and substance abuse treatment and services in Massachusetts. Member providers and their 20,000 dedicated employees provide clinically effective and cost-sensitive care to 117,000 individuals on any given day throughout the state.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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