Why We ♥ The ACA: Reason #5
Reason #5: Mental Health & Substance Use Treatment as an Essential Benefit
Lester, a patient that attends a recovery group at our Walton Family Health Center in the Bronx, generously shared his recovery story with us last year. Read some of it on our Facebook page.
Historically, mental health services have not been valued in the same way that medical and surgical services are. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) changed that.
The ACA asserted the importance of mental health by expanding access to mental health and substance use disorder benefits to 62 million Americans. And the law added mental health services to the list of Ten Essential health Benefits. This means that all new Medicaid and Marketplace plans are required to cover services like counseling. This was not the case before.
“The reasons people seek mental health treatment can be anxiety producing and overwhelming as it is, but when a patient does not have a way to pay for those services, it adds an additional and unnecessary layer of stress and worry,” said Laura Leone, MSSW, LMSWA, the Institute’s Upper Manhattan regional director of psychosocial services. “A patient can be so concerned about paying for their healthcare that it does not allow them to focus on the main reasons for treatment. The ACA allows us to unburden our patients from that additional anxiety by helping them to receive affordable healthcare to pay for their services, and then in turn, provides the patient with enough peace of mind to focus on what really matters to feel better.”
The new administration’s proposed bill to repeal the ACA would remove the essential benefits requirement leaving the poor and most vulnerable at risk for losing access to mental health services all together.