The National Committee for Quality Assurance last week released draft standards for accrediting managed behavioral health plans.
NCQA President Margaret O'Kane said the draft report was open to comment for 45 days. After that, she said she expected three pilot reviews to be performed this fall and the final standards to be issued in December. The program should be up and running early in 1997, O'Kane added.
The new standards are part of the NCQA's first specialized managed-care accreditation program. The NCQA plans to integrate the new standards into the next generation of the Health Plan Employer Data and Information Set, O'Kane said.
The new standards were developed by a task force that included mental health and substance-abuse experts, employers, consumers and government representatives.
"These standards fill the void and provide assurance that NCQA will be scrutinizing the quality of behavioral health plans every bit as closely as we do that of HMOs," Kane said.
Leslie Scallett, executive director for the Mental Health Policy Resource Center, said the new standards would ease concerns of consumer groups about the quality of mental health plans.
"I feel very strongly that this is the first step in assuring that the managed-care revolution really does address the needs of consumers," Scallett said.