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Mentally ill will benefit from health care reform

Medical and healthcare professionals agree that the healthcare reform under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is beneficial to those who are mentally ill. Under the new law, millions of people without coverage or inadequate coverage, including those with mental illness will now have access to the health and mental care coverage they need. Here are six ways that the ACA benefits those with mental illness in California and nationwide:

  • It provides physical care coverage which is important for those with mental or substance abuse issues. General health coverage is improved by insurance reforms, access to more affordable coverage, and expanded Medicaid in states that do not opt out.
  • Improved coverage of mental health and substance abuse conditions. Federal laws require equal coverage and care for mental and physical health conditions.
  • Enhanced Medicare coverage of medication, including psychiatric medications. This will reduce out-of-pocket spending and enhance access to psychiatric medications.
  • Places importance on integrating and coordinating both physical and mental health services, providing incentives to providers to integrate care. There is increased federal funding for Medicaid payments to "health homes" and contracts with "account care organizations" to improve care and contain costs.
  • Emphasis on preventative interventions both for mental conditions and the physical conditions that can accompany mental illness, including diabetes and heart disease.
  • The ACA emphasizes services in the home and community instead of institutions. There are new grants and opportunities to reduce use of nursing homes and provide disability care in the home.

The Affordable Care Act is a step towards meeting the needs of those with mental health conditions. It does so within the community, rather than institutions whenever possible. It should contribute to recovery and an improved quality of life.

Source: Huffington Post, "Supreme Court decision benefits people with mental illness," Michael Friedman, L.M.S.W. and Kelley Williams, June 29, 2012.

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