Sad but true, there are a lot of mentally ill patients who do not have health care coverage. Mental illness is considered a pre-existing condition by insurance companies. As we all know, when you have a pre-existing condition, getting an insurance policy is quite hard because insurers can deny you or charge you higher premiums.
According to the National Comorbidity Survey, mental illness can start at the early age of 14. Psychiatric illnesses include mood disorders, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders. These mental illnesses can be treated but only 50 percent of diagnosed cases get the necessary therapy and medications to stop and control the progression of the illness. Lack of treatment increases the risk of committing suicide, loss of productivity and absenteeism.
So how will the implementation of the Affordable Care Act change things for mentally ill patients?
- Guaranteed acceptance for people with pre-existing conditions.
Mental illness, as I said, is considered a pre-existing condition by insurance companies. This is one of the reasons why a lot of mentally ill patients do not have health insurance coverage. By 2014, insurance companies are prohibited from denying health care coverage or charging higher premiums to persons with pre-existing conditions. Also, Insurance companies cannot cancel your policy if you develop a pre-existing condition while your coverage is in place.
- Access to mental health care benefits.
Back in 2008, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act mandated that mental illness be covered just like any other medical illness. However, not all insurance companies offered mental health care coverage. It was mainly offered by employer-sponsored plans from businesses with 50 or more employees. While it became accessible to some, it was still out of reach for many, especially the poor. With the expansion of Medicaid, even the poor can get mental health care coverage.
- Donut-hole problem fixed for Medicare beneficiaries.
Under the Affordable Care Act, prescription drugs of Medicare beneficiaries were given a 50 percent discount. The discounts would be very helpful since psychiatric medications are expensive. This prevents the disruption of medical treatment for Medicare beneficiaries with mental health problems.
The Affordable Care Act is a blessing in disguise for those diagnosed with mental illness. One can only hope that access to this mental health care coverage won’t be deferred due to the upcoming November election.