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Annu Rev Public Health. 1998;19:493-505.

Mental health and managed care.

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Center for Health Research, Kaiser Permanente, Kaiser/Group Health, Portland, OR 97227, USA.


Managed care has become the dominant method for financing and delivering care for common mental health problems and for people with severe, chronic mental health conditions. Despite the rapid growth of managed mental health care, there is very little research available to guide policy choices. Managed care has led to decreased costs for employers and other payers, mostly through reducing hospital admissions or length of stay. Managed care organizations use staff with lesser levels of training (e.g. social workers instead of psychiatrists) and are more likely to offer group outpatient programs and manualized treatment than their fee-for-service counterparts. Despite these differences, there is no clear evidence that health outcomes are worse for patients in managed care. There is an urgent need for researchers to turn their attention to issues such as cost, quality, access, satisfaction, and functional outcomes associated with managed mental health care. The impact of parity of mental health with insurance coverage for physical conditions is another important question that needs to be addressed.

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