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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Mental Health Coverage And The Affordable Care Act

The United States Supreme Court.
The United States Supreme Court. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This past week the news has been filled with coverage about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and the recent decision of the United States Supreme Court. Undoubtedly the conversation and debate about this landmark ruling will continue for months and years to come.

But for those who have struggled over the years to obtain health insurance coverage either through their employer or on their own as a self-employed individual this decision might offer some clarity on what to expect going forward. Usually if you are in a large insurance pool due to your employment (private company, union, government employee including military) then the process of signing-up has been a simple process. However, previously if you were shopping on the open market and you had anything in your health background that was considered untoward, then you could be turned down or charged higher or often times unaffordable rates. Additionally, if one of your dependents or your spouse suffered from a pre-existing condition your rates were also affected to the point of making the purchase out of reach or any health incident that could be linked to the pre-existing condition could be excluded. The Affordable Care Act attempts to correct this issue including how it applies to mental health conditions.

In 1996 the Mental Health Parity Act (MHPA) was signed into law and subsequently it was superseded by the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) which was signed into law in October 2008 by President George W. Bush. Both of these acts were welcomed by people who suffer from mental health conditions and the disease of addiction, but each of these acts was limited in scope. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is suppose to assure that an insurer won't be allowed to turn a person down for a pre-existing psychiatric or health condition (currently children are covered by this provision and adults soon will be able to enjoy this benefit).

It has been about 18 months since we last posted about mental health parity, but given that is appears we will move forward with the Affordable Care Act understanding how this act can impact coverage for mental health conditions will prove important for families and individuals who are forced to navigate the process of obtaining coverage and treatment for both mental health and substance abuse disorders. Of interest, as of 2002 (ten years ago) the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) conservatively estimated the total costs associated with serious mental illness, those disorders that are severely debilitating and affect about 6 percent of the adult population, to be in excess of $300 billion per year.

Learn what you can about the Affordable Care Act, being informed is important. Here you can read an article from PsychCentral: What the Affordable Care Act Means to Mental Health.
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