• Behavioral health benefits cover treatment and prevention for substance use disorders and mental health conditions, such as depression or bipolar disorder.
  • Physical health benefits cover medical care and surgery related to conditions like diabetes or physical rehabilitation.

Parity's goal is to make it no more difficult for people to access benefits for mental health and substance use disorder (behavioral health) than to use benefits for physical health. Specifically, parity laws require that limitations applied to behavioral health within a benefit classification (inpatient, outpatient, emergency care, and pharmacy) should be comparable to and applied no more stringently than those used in the same physical health benefit classification. Differences at the individual service level are allowed as long as they are not more burdensome in aggregate.

The Department of Health Care Policy & Financing is committed to maintaining mental health and substance use disorder parity standards for all Health First Colorado (Colorado’s Medicaid program) members. This page provides comprehensive information about parity, the analysis process, and what it means for Health First Colorado members and their care team.

Educational Resources

Parity Compliance

The Department is responsible for monitoring and oversight of Health First Colorado’s compliance with parity requirements in accordance with federal and state regulations. The Department performs analysis of parity compliance and prepares an annual Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Report. This comprehensive process makes sure behavioral health parity standards are met for all Health First Colorado members. (A full description of the parity assessment process can be found in the Methodology section of the report.) The Department submits the report to the Colorado state legislature and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and posted publicly here and on the Regulatory Resource Center webpage. The annual report and additional resources are listed below:




The Department considers feedback from stakeholders, advocates, health care providers, and the Colorado Attorney General’s Office when making sure parity laws are followed. Stakeholders are welcome to submit questions, comments, or feedback about parity and parity compliance to the Department.

For more information contact