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Obamacare to improve mental health care for 11 million in US

Staff Writer

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The history of mental health care is a rather dark one. As late as the 1980s, people with mental health disorders were marginalized by society and treated as subhuman. They were placed in institutions and often forgotten about. Conditions have improved over the past 30 years or so, but people suffering from psychological disorders face a great deal of social stigma and marginalization. Many cannot get the treatment they need to get better.

There is a health insurance gap for people living with mental illnesses; they have less access to the coverage they need than people with physical illnesses. This is an example of how mental health concerns are still marginalized in our society.

Eleven million American adults with mental illnesses do not have health insurance, making it very difficult for them to get treatment. It is difficult for these Americans to get health insurance because their applications are often rejected due to their pre-existing condition of mental illnesses.

Even if they do have health insurance, many plans do not cover or offer only partial coverage for mental health care, leaving many people to face huge out-of-pocket expenses in order to get treatment. Most people in that situation do not have the financial means to cover the these costs; if they did, they would likely have a more comprehensive health insurance plan. This means that they will go as long a possible without the necessary treatment, which only makes matters worse.

It is a sad reality that mental health concerns are not taken as seriously or treated with the same urgency as physical illnesses. While our society may treat people with mental illnesses more humanely than in the past, they are still marginalized by a society that does not take their suffering as seriously as it should.

Thankfully, the Affordable Care Act has many provisions that aim at trying to fix this problem. Here are some of the ways Obamacare is working to bridge the insurance gap that exists for adults with mental disorders:

Medicaid

In the past Medicaid has often not applied to these people’s mental health needs, because in many states it is only available to parents of children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with disabilities who get supplementary income from the government. Many people living with mental illnesses do not meet those criteria because they live just above the poverty line or are younger adults who do not have a family of their own. Obamacare is going to change that.

The Medicaid eligibility has been extended to include many of the groups that were excluded before Obamacare. One of those groups is single, young adults living above the poverty line but still struggling to make ends meet. College students and recent college graduates often find themselves in that group since they are still trying to find jobs in a limited and very competitive job market.

Insurance Plans

Starting in 2014, health insurance companies are required to cover mental health treatment to the same extent that they cover physical illness. More people will now be able to afford treatment for their mental disorders, because it will be covered by their health insurance. Under Obamacare, health insurance companies are no longer allowed to drop people for becoming ill or reject applications due to pre-existing conditions, so people who were previously denied coverage because of their mental health concerns will be able to get insurance now.

Under Obamacare, substance-abuse treatment is also covered by health insurance plans. If more people with substance abuse issues are able to get effective treatment, then it is very likely that there will be a decline in the number of people living with substance abuse disorders. That is a good thing.

This is especially good for young adults because many mental illnesses start to manifest in the late teens and early twenties. Schizophrenia, for example, is most often diagnosed in early adulthood, and if it is left untreated or is poorly treated, it can be completely debilitating. Anxiety, depression and substance abuse can also become significant concerns around this age and will likely cause lifelong problems if left untreated or undiagnosed.

The best part of this portion of Obamacare is that it puts mental health concerns on par with physical illness and disease. This carries a huge social significance, because for the first time the suffering caused by mental illness is being taken as seriously as physical medical concerns.

Right now, they are only on equal grounds in that insurance companies are legally required to treat psychological and physical illnesses with the same urgency. Socially upheld stigmas do not dissipate as easily as we can change laws, which is not that simple either. However, if you leave the new system in place for long enough, eventually society will start to come around, and that stigma will start to dissipate as well.

Affordability

Obamacare already makes it easier and less expensive to get health insurance by regulating what the insurance companies are allowed to do. There are fewer out-of-pocket costs for the consumer and medication is covered to a greater extent. Since these benefits now apply equally to mental illness, many more people will be able to afford more effective treatment methods.

They will at least be able to afford both their medication and therapy sessions, which is more effective than just one or the other and is definitely better than no treatment at all. The more people who can afford to get the proper treatment for their mental health concerns, the better it is for the country.

With proper treatment and preventative care, fewer people will have their lives disrupted by mental illnesses. This means there will be more fully functioning American adults and children.

Obamacare does a a great service to people living with mental disorders and for the country. Better yet, more affordable access to mental health care does not just benefit the people who need treatment the most; it benefits everybody. Better access to the resources needed to stay healthy means a healthier nation, because fewer people will have to wait until they severely ill to get help. Instead, they will be able to attend to mental health concerns when they first start to manifest.

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Obamacare to improve mental health care for 11 million in US