Try and think of one person who you know who has NOT been affected by mental illness: tough, right? According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, one in four adults experience a mental health disorder in a given year — that’s 57.7 Americans. What’s even more shocking is the lack of health care coverage for these individuals.
The recent decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in June 2012 has significant implications for those suffering from a mental illness. The most significant change is that states will now have to pay a large penalty if they do not expand their Medicaid programs to cover the uninsured — even those who struggle with mental illness and substance abuse. Additionally, mental health and substance abuse coverage will be provided at the same rates and costs as coverage for other medical conditions.
Currently, many Americans are not eligible for federal disability benefits or Medicaid, even if they are poor and living with a chronic mental illness. Those who do not qualify for Medicaid and are unable/unwilling to go through the disability determination process would be able to receive Medicaid coverage in states that expand their Medicaid Programs. Working at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics over the past three years has provided me with a unique perspective of how patients without insurance struggle to get adequate mental health care. Medication, psychotherapy and in-home services are all very costly. The Affordable Care Act would vastly improve access to mental health care.
While the ACA will not be the end all solution to mental health and substance care, I believe it’s a step in the right direction. No longer will patients have to worry about paying for their expensive medications or finding a therapist who provides services on a sliding fee scale. Patients will now be able to get the care they need from providers who are best equipped to help them.