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Friday, October 31, 2014

Affordable Care Act Lacking Mental Health Coverage

The Affordable Care Act has provided coverage to millions of Americans who were previously uninsurable. Unfortunately, despite being insured, there are people who have not been able to seek treatment for substance abuse and mental health problems, according to U.S. News & World Report.

There are a number of loopholes in the health care law that has kept people from requesting mental health care, the article reports. The Affordable Care Act does not specify which particular services must be covered, despite mental health and substance use disorders being considered essential health benefits that must be covered. In some cases, patients are not aware that their insurance plans cover behavioral health.

“There’s a perception that enforcement is not what it should be, and that people aren’t getting the benefits they are entitled to,” said Bob Carolla, a spokesman at the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

A report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found a shortage of 1,846 psychiatrists and 5,931 other mental health professionals. Some experts fear that if more patients start seeking help for behavioral health issues, there will not be adequate resources to serve them. The report showed that 55 percent of U.S. counties do not have any practicing psychiatrists, psychologists or social workers.

“There has been a long-standing shortage,” Carolla says. “Expansion of health care is a good thing, but it also means you are widening demand for it.”

It is crucial that patients understand what their health insurance plan covers exactly before choosing a plan. If you have a history of mental illness or substance abuse, and your plan is not covering treatment, it is best to switch your plan to one that does.

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