Insurance parity refers to equality in health insurance benefit coverage for treatment of substance use disorders as compared to benefits for treating other medical problems. Over the past 2 decades, policies to mandate equal benefit coverage for mental health and—to a lesser extent—substance use disorders in employer-sponsored health plans have been a topic of policy debate. Over time, this debate has increasingly been informed by research evaluating the impact of parity mandates that have already been adopted.

Parity in insurance coverage for mental and substance use disorders (often called "behavioral health" benefits) arose as a policy issue because health insurance plans offered by employers have historically covered other medical conditions more generously than they do mental health and substance abuse problems. By the mid-1990s, most employers ...

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