Much attention has been paid to the possible effects that the Affordable Care Act will have on health insurance and access to treatment, especially access to mental health treatment for those who previously may have been unable to afford therapeutic care. Though no one can say for sure how everything will shake out in the end, what adjustments will be made as the project unfolds and how this will impact the individual patient’s experience, it is hoped that the new laws will increase the ability of patients to get the treatment they need as well as improve the quality of care across the board.
Signed by George W. Bush in 2008, the Mental Health Parity Act was designed to help ensure that those who need it are getting the mental health treatment necessary to heal. However, though this was the intent of the law, the Obama administration felt that many insurance companies were not in compliance, and as a result, they made a few changes at the end of 2013, according to Forbes. Forbes reported that new regulations have been announced that require that mental health care be covered by health insurance companies to the same extent as physical health care.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says that the updated law “finally puts mental health and behavioral health on equal footing,” according to CNN. Some are excited about the changes, while others are not so sure that they will have the intended effect.
In the past, mental health care coverage was far more limited than coverage for medical care, but with the new changes, it is believed that those who formerly found mental health treatment to be prohibitively expensive will now be able to afford personal therapy visits, group sessions, some holistic treatments, and more.
Copayments, for example, must now be the same for mental health visits as they are for medical appointments, and referrals must be authorized with equal consideration when patients seek help for mental health symptoms, including substance abuse. No longer should patients find that their health insurance coverage will not provide for mental health treatment or provide services on such a limited basis that they are largely ineffective.
There are many who are skeptical about the changes in health care regulations. In the briefest terms, the fear is that health insurance companies will be forced to raise their rates or else close their doors, making health insurance far more expensive for those who currently hold policies or force them to choose an Obamacare plan that may be more limited in scope of services than their current policies when those policies are canceled.
Others say that as inexpensive as the health plans offered through the Affordable Care Act may be, they are still too expensive for many, and as a result, lower-income families may still be unable to pay for coverage and will now face a tax penalty as well.
Whatever the outcome of the current debate and ongoing updates and changes to Obamacare, many should soon be able to get treatment for debilitating mental health symptoms that decrease their ability to function in day-to-day life. With the right treatment services, the hope is that these patients will soon be able to return to work, live more satisfying and fulfilling lives, and again make positive contributions in their communities, improving their own situation and those of others.
If you are, or your loved one is, struggling with mental health issues and ready to be matched with the right mental health treatment services, contact us at the phone number listed above now.
Integrated Treatment of Substance Abuse & Mental Illness