Health Care Reform Expands Mental Health Coverage

Article excerpt

EXPERT ANALYSIS FROM A TELECONFERENCE SPONSORED BY SAMSHA

Up to 10.5% of the 32 million uninsured Americans who will receive coverage under the Affordable Care Act have preexisting mental health or substance use conditions, Ron Manderscheid, Ph.D., said in the teleconference.

The expanded coverage these consumers will receive is sure to have ripple effects throughout the health care system--ultimately saving lives, said Dr. Manderscheid, executive director of the National Association of County and Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors.

He added that under the current health system, public mental health clients die 25 years sooner than the average American because of a lack of access to primary care.

Carol McDaid said that there is much to be gained from the new law.

'As recovery advocates, we are going to continue to make sure that the law is implemented and enforced according to congressional intent," commented Ms. McDaid, who is cofounder and principal of Capitol Decisions, a nonprofit advocacy organization.

She added that providers who choose to participate with the state-based health insurance exchanges will be required to offer mental health and addiction services.

Many aspects of the health care reform law will not go into effect until 2014, but consumers already can benefit from restrictions against insurers limiting annual and lifetime coverage, coverage for young adults who are on their parents' plan (through age 26), coverage regardless of preexisting conditions, and an external review process for denied claims, Ms. …