The political evolution of mental health parity

Colleen L. Barry

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


This article traces the evolution of the mental health parity debate in American politics, with a focus on how interest groups and politicians have attempted to influence perceptions about treatment effectiveness and the cost of benefit expansion. When parity laws are in place, they require health plans operating in the private health insurance market to provide an equivalent level of coverage for mental health and general medical care. Business and insurance industry groups oppose parity due to cost concerns. The mental health community has framed parity as an antidiscrimination measure that would achieve greater insurance equity across disease groups. The role of personal experience with mental illness among lawmakers and others in framing the parity debate is also considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-194
Number of pages10
JournalHarvard review of psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Mental health insurance
  • Parity
  • Politics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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