The Hidden Health Insurance Benefit in the Affordable Care Act that Matters Most

mental health services

In the heated debate over health care reform, one health benefit of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has received little media attention, despite its potential to positively influence the lives of many Americans. The ACA greatly expands access and coverage for mental health services, requiring that mental health treatment be handled in the same way as other medical treatments.

On December 17, the Senate overcame an attempted filibuster led by Republicans, and agreed to proceed with voting on the federal budget. The passing of the new budget is key to the roll-out of mental health programs in 2014.

Mental Health Services Requires Federal Funding

Mental health services workers and other supporters of the Affordable Care Act provision are concerned that the promised changes will never be put into practice, because of the existing federal budget crisis.

Fortunately for Americans suffering with mental illness, it is widely believed that the Senate will pass the proposed budget on December 18, ensuring these provisions will receive desperately needed funding.

Affordable Care Act Mental Health Coverage

Without the Affordable Care Act, health insurance companies would continue treating mental health services as they always have — with limitations on coverage and higher copays. But the ACA demands that health insurance companies cover mental health treatment as it would any other type of doctor’s care. This provision alone makes it easier for Americans to get help for some of the country’s most pervasive mental health disorders, especially veterans afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and substance abuse.

The new law also funds many important mental health programs for research, social outreach and coordination of care. By pulling together a social safety net that has been absent for many years, these programs will offer the chance of securing the psychiatric help that patients need, instead of leaving the mentally ill to fend for themselves on the streets.

The ACA offers more than greater access to mental health services for veterans and low-income Americans, it offers hope to many who had none.