Mental health advocates are quickly gathering figures to show that the Clinton administration's cost formulas for a psychiatric and substance-abuse treatment benefit overestimate the cost.
The newly formed American Managed Behavioral Healthcare Association, a group of 15 managed mental health companies, recently asked the consulting firm of Milliman & Robertson to conduct the industry's first actuarial study of such a benefit.
The Clinton administration has contended that a mental health benefit will cost $240 per person per year. The Clinton plan's benefit would include 30 days of inpatient care, 30 outpatient visits with a 50% copayment and 120 days of partial, ambulatory detoxification or home-based services.
If every American took advantage of the benefit, the total cost would reach $57 billion.
Preliminary results from the AMBHA survey, based on data from insured populations, show the actual cost for that coverage would be $50 to $140 per person annually. Final figures are expected to be available within a month.
With this data, mental health advocates hope to persuade Congress not to limit psychiatric services through what they see as arbitrary limits on treatment days. They also argue that a mental health benefit that's properly managed can cost less than unmanaged care.
Mental health executives are fighting some business groups that want to drop a mental health benefit altogether from any health reform bill.
In addition to conducting intense lobbying in Washington, groups such as the National Association for Psychiatric Health Systems, which met last week in San Diego, have enlisted 100 members to become trained industry representatives for health reform.