Whitehouse Praises Obamacare for Access to Mental Health

From the Whitehouse press office:

Obamacare Will Help 172,000 Rhode Islanders Gain Access to Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Benefits

Washington, DC– According to data released today by the White House, 172,000 Rhode Islanders will gain access to expanded mental health and substance use disorder benefits and federal parity protections thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a strong advocate for mental health parity, applauded the announcement as the latest example of the ACA improving care for Rhode Islanders.

“For too long, Americans suffering from mental health conditions have been stigmatized, misdiagnosed, and poorly treated,” said Whitehouse.  “The new benefits provided through the health care law will complement the landmark mental health parity law championed by Congressman Patrick Kennedy in 2008, and are an important step toward improving care for mental health patients.  It’s long past time to recognize that mental health is just as important as physical health by providing equal access to care, and the Affordable Care Act is helping us do so.”

Because of the health care law, for the first time insurance companies in the individual and small group market are required to cover mental health and substance use disorder services as one of ten categories of essential health benefits.  Additionally, insurance companies must cover these services at parity with medical and surgical benefits, which means, for example, out-of-pocket costs for behavioral health services must be comparable to coverage for medical and surgical care.

An estimated one in five adults experiences a mental health problem in any given year.  While most mental health problems are treatable, mental health patients too often cannot access needed treatment if they do not have health insurance that covers mental health services.  The Affordable Care Act requires most health plans to cover recommended preventive services like depression screenings for adults and behavioral assessments for children at no cost to consumers.  And, because of the law, starting in 2014 insurers will not be able to deny coverage or charge individuals more due to pre-existing conditions, including mental health problems.

Over the past several years, Senator Whitehouse has emerged as one of the leaders in Congress on mental health issues.  He strongly supported Congressman Kennedy’s Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act in 2008, and in 2010 Whitehouse and Kennedy teamed up to introduce the Health Information Technology (HIT) Extension for Behavioral Health Services Act.  That bill would have made federal HIT incentives available to behavioral health, mental health, and substance abuse treatment providers who are currently ineligible to receive incentives available to a majority of medical professionals and facilities.  Whitehouse has continued working on that legislation since Kennedy’s retirement, reintroducing it earlier this year.

While I see this as overall good news, I want to caution mental health consumers out there to be aware of your deductibles when you go into treatment, particularly into higher levels of care, and particularly if you have a high deductible health plan.  Remember that you have the right to know the costs of your treatment up front.

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5 thoughts on “Whitehouse Praises Obamacare for Access to Mental Health

  1. Folks will need mental health care after trying to deal with this dog of a law in thousands of pages that no one seems to have read, and the huge increase in cost and loss of personal physicians.

  2. LOL-too true unfortunately-they had four years to figure out a website and the consequences of the law and apparently thought it would somehow work itself out-any major retailer could produce a better website than what is there now at a fraction of the cost-if this is a preview of how the ACA will work it looks like a regressive era in health care is coming

  3. One of my friends who is self-employed and has been paying for insurance for years has been able to get a better plan that is less expensive. She got help from a navigator to get all her questions answered before she chose a plan. Medicaid expansion is also going to help working adults who could not afford insurance. When you see the mess we have been living with and how much it hurts people while wasting money you know that reform is long overdue.

    • I can’t argue the part about reform being overdue but please don’t try to tell me this is working out well-you can’t be that invested in Obama and this program not to see the failure.He should at least have made a much better effort to ensure that something as basic as the website worked,including security precautions -Amazon seems to be able to handle a very complex online operation without many glitches because if they don’t do it well,they will lose money.In Obamacare,none of those responsible seem to have even lost their jobs.Obama delegated the task to incompetents.I’m glad your friend did all right-my sister in law didn’t fare so well-she lost her health coverage.

  4. I’m reading a Washington Post book about the Affordable Care Act. I’m struck by how much the provisions of the law match everything I’ve seen and heard since starting nursing in 1990. I’m also struck by how conservative the law is. The Democrats in Congress lobbied hard for a public option, for Medicare expansion, but the vote was very close. Joe Lieberman pretty much ditched a chance to expand Medicare as the price of his vote. I think Howard Dean got thrown under the bus for his common sense advocacy for single payer. VA and Medicare/Medicaid are examples of how that works. But imperfect as it is, the ACA is a historic step forward, contains essential reforms, has already insured over 5 million Americans and is a response to the reality of health care. The website is working better now.

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