The value of the average mental health benefits package offered by medium to large U.S. companies fell 1.5% to $69.87 per covered person in 1998, according to a study funded by the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems and the Association of Behavioral Group Practices.
The study of 1,017 plans, which was conducted by the Arlington, Va., office of the Hay Group, may indicate a bottoming out of the value of such packages, which has fallen 54.7% since 1988.
The value of healthcare benefits as a whole fell much more slowly-by 11.5%-to $2,098.68 per covered individual during the same period, the study found.
Some 57% of plans imposed annual caps on psychiatric outpatient visits in 1998, compared with 48% in 1997. That sharp increase coincided with the Jan. 1, 1998, effective date of the 1996 Mental Health Parity Act, which bars plans from imposing lower lifetime limits on mental health benefits than on other healthcare benefits, but allows annual caps.