Time to look at the potential impact of ACA repeal on mental health care

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org. Follow her on Facebook.

Photo: mattwalker69 via Flickr

Photo: mattwalker69 via Flickr

Sarah Ferris has written a new tip sheet for AHCJ members that provides ideas on exploring how partial or complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act could reduce access to mental health care for millions of people.

This comes at a time when the country is grappling with an opioid addiction crisis and scores of people are without adequate access to behavioral health care.

The ACA led to the biggest expansion in mental health and substance abuse care in many years. Ferris details several likely impacts – with the caveat that we don’t yet know which ACA provisions may survive an eventual GOP replacement. Here are some issues to keep in mind:

  • Less overall coverage, including the population served under Medicaid expansion.
  • Less protection for pre-existing conditions, including for severe mental illness that often is chronic.
  • The loss of behavioral health services as an “essential health benefit” that insurers must cover.
  • Elimination or weakening of federal parity protections in the individual and small group market as well as Medicaid, which required insurers treat mental illness the same as physical illness.
  • Screening for depression and alcohol abuse as a free preventive service in the exchange plans (not subject to co-pays or deductibles)
  • Possible re-establishment of annual and lifetime coverage caps.

Check out this useful resource.

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