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What the Affordable Care Act Means for Mental Health Care Benefits

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act enacted by Congress in 2010.  Although it will take many years for several of the law’s provisions to be completely implemented into law, there are some important changes in the way mental health care will be handled in this country, as reported by Psych Central.  The mental health news site recently reported on several of the changes that are central to the Act, including the provision that makes mental health care more accessible to those with lower incomes and the underinsured.

One of the big wins for people who have mental health concerns is that patients won’t be denied coverage based on pre-existing conditions.  According to the provisions of the new healthcare laws, it will be illegal to discriminate against someone who has a pre-existing psychiatric diagnosis, making it impossible to cancel a patient’s coverage due to a psychiatric condition.

Another aspect of the Act is that mental health professionals will have access to more incentives to provide a more holistic approach to health that promotes an integrated approach to overall health care.  The new laws promote a preventive approach to care, designed to keep more patients out of the hospital by identifying serious mental health conditions before the patient becomes dangerous to themselves or to others.

Thanks to the Act, the medication coverage gap in Medicare will also remain filled, making it easier for seniors who are prescribed psychiatric medication to be able to afford them.  The new laws cut patient payments for these types of traditional expensive medication nearly in half, converging much of the gap in senior care.

As reported by Psych Central, the majority of the Affordable Care Act will be put into place over the next 5-10 years.  Some pieces of the new laws are already implemented, including the enforcement of a new rule that prevents insurance companies from putting a lifetime limit on the amount of health coverage provided to an individual over a lifetime of care, and the law that prevents insurance companies from denying coverage to kids who have been diagnosed with pre-existing conditions.