Medical Cost Offset

Do the Numbers Add Up?

Published in: Behavioral Healthcare Tomorrow, v. 10, no. 1, Feb. 2001, p.15, 35-37

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2000

by Roland Sturm, Russ Newman

Two field experts discuss whether evidence of a medical cost offset exists. It's a simple question that has generated a complex debate in the behavioral health field: Does behavioral health treatment generate savings in other healthcare expenditures? Those who say yes point to the high costs of emergency care and other treatment associated with undetected depression or substance use. Those who say no insist that behavioral health leaders have overestimated treatment's medical cost offset in a far-reaching attempt to win more funding. And still others wonder about the question's appropriateness: Would a cancer surgeon be asked to justify his services by discussing how they save money in other healthcare areas?

This report is part of the RAND Corporation external publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.