Obamacare and Mental Illness Explained

Amid a government shutdown and great controversy about the recent Affordable Care Act, many of us are wondering what the actual impacts will be on those of us who suffer from mental illness.

Here are some cold, hard facts about ObamaCare:

1. All health plan options on the market are required to cover mental health and substance abuse services. Since about one third of pre-ACA insurance plans have no substance abuse coverage, and about 20% have no mental health coverage, this will make a noticeable difference.

2. Insurers must provide a level of mental health care services comparable to the level of medical/surgical health care services already/usually offered. This means that those with existing insurance will get shiny new benefits. Behavioral health treatment, counseling, psychotherapy, behavioral assessments, and many screenings are among the services covered.

3. Plans are required to to cover preventative services without charging customers a co-payment or coinsurance, even if you have not met your annual deductible.

4. Cost assistance is available to individuals, families, and small businesses.

5. 10 essential services must be included in all plans:

Emergency Services

Hospitalizations

Laboratory Services

Maternity Care

Mental Health/Substance Abuse Treatment

Outpatient Care

Pediatric Care

Prescription Drugs

Preventative Care

Rehabilitation Services

Vision and Dental Care for Children

6. Adults with pre-existing conditions  cannot be denied coverage starting in January of 2014. Yay! This is great for everyone.

7. In January, states can decide to expand programs for those earning less than $15,302 (individual) or $31,155 (family) per year. States that opt in will receive federal funding for 100% of the costs for the first three years, and 90% of the costs thereafter. This is great, especially since many mentally ill patients are in lower socioeconomic groups.

Basically, everyone will get new benefits and better coverage. Out-of-pocket costs will go down, which is wonderful. I have great health insurance, but my out-of-pocket costs are still significant, at about $632/year just for prescription drugs and upwards of $350/year for psychotherapy (if you take supplemental mental health services and medical check-ups/vaccines/misc. costs into consideration, it really adds up). It could be much more, but that’s still $1,000 that could go toward my education, rent, buying a car, life savings, etc. Obviously, there are cons to ObamaCare. However, many of the people opposing the program are the same people blaming mentally ill people for all killing sprees and violent crime, saying that that’s the issue we need to tackle. If you say that, you need to back it up with an actual solution. As a supporter of universal, socialized healthcare who has lived in Norway, a country with socialized, universal healthcare, and seen the wonders it can work, I believe that the Affordable Care Act can really help our country, especially its own mentally ill patients, who were often victims in the old American insurance situation.

Sources:

QC Times on Mental Health Benefits Under ObamaCare

WebMD Health Reform 101

Washington Post: Mental Health Coverage Under ACA

ObamaCare Facts

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