Monday Mood News: Mental Health Coverage Questionable With New Healthcare Bill

May 8, 2017

Before this post begins, please know that it is never the intent of this website to side with any political affiliation. We exist simply to place a focus squarely on mental health issues, specifically the care and support of those living with those diagnoses.

At this very moment, we are in unsettling times in our country. The House of Representatives narrowly passed a bill (217:213) that will effectively overturn the Affordable Care Act (“ACA” or “Obamacare” are other monikers) in exchange for the American Health Care Act, which the media has termed “Trumpcare.” The provisions of this new bill have staggering implications for many Americans (it presents 240 pre-existing conditions that will raise premiums or could render many uninsurable,) but the bill does present complications for those living with mental health conditions.

A recent article in Psychology Today explains the impact on mental health best:

“Technically speaking, the American Health Care Act does not repeal the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA), signed into law in 2008, which requires health insurance plans to cover mental health- and substance misuse-related treatments just as they would cover treatments for chronic physical health issues (such as diabetes or cancer). Under this law plans cannot charge more for a mental health or substance misuse treatment than they would charge for a physical health treatment, nor can they limit the number of visits to a mental health care professional if that treatment is required to manage a chronic mental health concern (like schizophrenia, addiction, or depression).

However, the GOP health bill would, beginning in 2020, remove a requirement set forth in the ACA that mandated Medicaid to cover basic mental and behavioral (including substance-related) health services. This would threaten the care that over 1.28 million people grappling with mental health issues receive thanks to Medicaid’s expansion.

As Representative Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) pointed out in a recent hearing held by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, “it was a combination of mental health parity and the ACA that included mental health benefits as part of the essential health benefits package. Parity just says if you offer mental health benefits they have to be offered…the same way that physical health benefits are. It does not mandate the offering of mental health benefits. With the combination of the repeal language we see on page eight [of the new GOP health bill] it means that mental health benefits are not required now by federal law. It would be up to the states to actually impose. So when we look at those essential health benefits, whether it’s mental health care or…other health conditions, that is no longer essentially covered, or required to be covered, by this version of this text.”

We recommend reading the article in its entirety. It’s a well-stated, well-crafted piece that explains the impact on all of us.

The Senate now has the bill for consideration. We ask that the government of the United States consider the number of individuals who will be impacted negatively by the passage of this bill, that the many pre-existing conditions presented under this bill could mean rampant bankruptcies, lack of access to care, and grave implications for the elderly, the impoverished, and the underprivileged. We cannot call anything a success for the country when millions will suffer. We ask voters to make themselves heard, and for us to consider alternatives so that we can all receive the care we so urgently need. Mental health is just as important as the other 239 pre-existing conditions, and we cannot drive more people into the dark who so desperately need the light of care and assistance.

All we ask if that we consider all of our needs. Mental healthcare matters. Healthcare matters. Let us all move into the future together, a future where we may all receive the help we need, a day we look forward to with hope and grace.