84% of Americans Say Behavioral Health Parity Is Important

The majority of Americans believe in behavioral health parity and prioritize mental health now more than they have in the past.

But they’re not so keen on paying higher premiums to get it.

A survey conducted by the health insurance industry group Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness illuminates the popular demand for equal treatment between behavioral and physical health care. The ABHW also says the results highlight the urgency of making parity a reality and decry the Biden Administration’s efforts to expand parity enforcement regulations.


“While the pursuit of parity is vital, it cannot be viewed as a standalone solution to all the problems that plague modern-day behavioral health care,” Pamela Greenberg, CEO and president of the ABHW, said in a statement. “We have an opportunity to make real strides for patients in parity implementation and improvements to quality behavioral health care — as our survey so starkly demonstrates is critical for today’s population.”

Several behavioral health stakeholders tell BHB that the lack of genuine parity between behavioral health and physical health care benefits has wide-reaching impacts on patients and provider operations. Some acknowledge that additional parity enforcement should come with a greater obligation to prove the value of care provided.

The survey found that 82% of respondents think the health care system should treat behavioral health and physical health care equally, and 84% think ensuring fair access to behavioral health is important.


Potentially brought on by the globally traumatic coronavirus pandemic, 62% of respondents said they increasingly prioritize mental health and substance use disorder care compared to the past.

Other survey data shows that illicit substance use is on the rise, almost exclusively driven by a dramatic increase in self-reported marijuana use. Rates of perceived mental illness and overdose deaths are also historically elevated after the onset of the pandemic.

“For far too long, mental health and substance use disorders have been treated as second to physical health in the healthcare system, leaving millions of Americans without the care they need and deserve,” Greenberg said. “ABHW is committed to continue ensuring that mental health and substance use disorder parity is not just a promise, but a reality.”

Far less than a majority of respondents (39%) said they would pay higher insurance costs for comprehensive behavioral health benefits, according to the release.

Rather, the survey asked about the top behavioral health benefits respondents said they would use if their health plan provided them:

— 42%, telehealth counseling

— 32%, expanded network of mental health and substance use disorder specialists

— 32%, mindfulness and meditation programs

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