The American Health Care Act (AHCA), which if passed by Congress and signed into law by the President would make major changes to Obamacare, would have a significant effect on mental health coverage. Many low-income individuals who currently have access to mental health and substance abuse coverage are afraid that they might lose their coverage should the AHCA become law.
Regular Coverage vs. Emergency Rooms
Many individuals who currently have access to mental health and substance abuse services were not covered by insurance policies prior to the passage of Obamacare. Whenever they faced medical emergencies they went to emergency rooms, which were obliged to treat them. After being discharged, if they relapsed, they went back to the ER and the cycle started over.
With passage of Obamacare and the expansion of Medicaid that came along with it, those individuals were able to gain greater access to health care. Under AHCA, that Medicaid expansion would sunet, reducing immediate access to health care for those with substance abuse or mental health issues. Provisions of the AHCA relating to pre-existing conditions would also allow for health care providers to reduce existing coverage of people with mental health and substance abuse problems.
What Does the Future Hold?
Given the increased visibility of mental health issues that has been highlighted in the wake of mass shootings by mentally disturbed individuals, and the opioid crisis that has been ravaging small towns throughout the country, there is an understandable sense of worry that cutting off people with mental health and substance abuse problems from their health care may lead to societal problems.
While this is an understandable fear, throwing government money at a problem isn’t the solution. Treating those with mental problems and substance abuse issues is expensive, but it’s expensive because government got involved in the health care business to begin with. Restricting supply through medical licensing and certificate of need laws and subsidizing health coverage through Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs has driven per capita health care costs up exponentially.
Obamacare continued to drive up costs, resulting in a doubling of premiums in the few short years since its passage. Part of this is due to the fact that insurers are no longer able to vary the type of coverage they offer, they must now offer plans with greatly increased coverage to people who won’t need all of the services offered. This in essence subsidizes the health care coverage of those with pre-existing conditions, including those with mental health and substance abuse issues.
While no one wants to see those with mental health and substance abuse issues kicked to the curb, any solution to the problem of health care costs needs to address the underlying causes of the price increases, not just the symptoms. Doing so will ensure that prices remain reasonable for all consumers and that those with mental health issues will be able to get the help that they need at a price they can afford.