Monday, December 17, 2012

Obamacare And Mental Health

In the wake of the Newtown massacre, many people have been interested in public policy measures to address mental health issues. So it may be good to mention the way that the Affordable Care Act promotes mental health coverage. From Colleen Barry and Haiden Huskamp in the New England Journal of Medicine:
Key ACA provisions hold promise for improving long-standing access problems and system fragmentation that affect the well-being of people with mental health or addiction disorders. Expansions of Medicaid, the mandate for employers to offer insurance, the creation of health insurance exchanges with subsidies for low-income people, and other reforms are expected to result in coverage for at least 3.7 million currently uninsured people with severe mental illnesses and many more with less severe needs for mental health and addiction treatment. The ACA goes beyond the requirements of the federal parity law by mandating that both Medicaid benchmark plans (i.e., alternative plan options created under the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005) and plans operating through the state-based insurance exchanges cover behavioral health services as part of an essential benefits package.
3.7 million is a big number. Unfortunately, these changes in the law will take until 2014. It's another time when one wishes that we could've gone for a faster rollout. Still, good stuff when it happens.
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