Affordable care Act, mental Health
Though Obamacare extends coverage to this group – collectively referred to as behavioral health – various loopholes in the health care law at this time have kept people from requesting mental health care. Some states haven't expanded Medicaid, the government health insurance program for poor or disabled Americans, leaving about 5 million in a coverage gap, the majority of whom, experts believe, need mental health care. In other cases, patients aren't even aware of the benefits they can get with their new health insurance.
The Congressional Budget Office projected that 13 million uninsured Americans would have access to health coverage by 2014, whether through Medicaid, online exchanges or the private market. But so far the demand for mental health services hasn't budged, even though provisions in the health law make it more affordable.
More patients seeking mental health care will come within the next few years, experts project, and the question then will be whether there will be enough providers available. Paul Gionfriddo, CEO of Mental Health America, predicts a " bump in the road where access gets a little more constrained, " though he is optimistic that the details of the law will work the way they are supposed to in time.
"We haven't been hearing about access issues from our members, " says Stuart Gordon, director of policy and health care reform at the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors.
That isn't for lack of need. Mental health is one of the most common health care issues, affecting as many as 1 in 4 adults each year.The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found in a 2013 report that 9.6 million adults reported having a serious mental illness, such as major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder. People with mental illness require an individualized treatment plan that could require medications, therapy and participation in peer support groups.
People who don't have health insurance are more likely to put off medical care or to skip it altogether. Untreated mental illness can cause someone to become unemployed or homeless, or to turn to substance abuse. Some turn to suicide, and many are taken to prison instead of receiving care. The economic cost of untreated mental illness is more than $100 billion each year in the U.S., according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.