At the end of June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of continuing their positive national movement towards ensuring that mental health and addictions receive similar recognition as other medical conditions, which will allow more Americans the much needed insurance coverage they deserve. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been aiming towards expanding the needs for this l population nationally for quite some time, and for the first time in Federal law, the essential benefit package of insurances will require mental health and substance abuse as one of the ten required coverage categories; It will also extend the parity law to small businesses.
Mental health disorders affect more than 34% of Americans in any given year which equates to 1 in every 3 individuals throughout the nation. Mental health is a broad topic and can cover mood disorders to full blown psychotic disorders , so the fact that politicians and now the Supreme Court are willing to recognize the need for this coverage and work together for a common goal is encouraging.
The Affordable Care Act extends insurance availability to many individuals who were denied coverage for pre-existing conditions, young adults up to age 26 who are not yet able to secure their own coverage and employees of smaller companies. The inclusion of mental health and substance abuse treatment goes a long way to extending treatment and rehabilitation opportunities to a population of individuals who, without insurance coverage, have significant medical and psychiatric risks. The expansion of Medicaid has been left to each state, which may still allow people with psychiatric and substance abuse problems to fall between the cracks. In our State of Oklahoma, with high rates of suicide, mental health and substance abuse problems, we really need to carefully examine the human costs of no treatment.
There’s much left to be developed and understood in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. There is also a good chance that over the course of time the ACA will be modified or even repealed in all or part as political factions take on the issue of healthcare. As the ACA does relate to coverage for mental health and substance abuse treatment, we need to pay attention to the costs of treatment vs. non-treatment. Untreated mental illness, drug and alcohol problems cost people and society-at-large an enormous amount of money, let alone the suffering of individuals, families and children who experience first-hand the true costs of not having available treatment resources. We are truly in a “wait and see” period as the political tug-of-war continues over healthcare and the Affordable Care Act. In the meantime the lack of insurance still stands in the way of people getting the services they need and the human costs will keep mounting.