According to an issue brief released Feb. 20 by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Affordable Care Act will extend mental health and substance use disorder benefits to 32 million and federal parity protections to an additional 30 million Americans.
The HHS report explains that to do so, the Affordable Care Act will build upon the existing federal parity law, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. Applying to group health plans and insurers, this law requires that when provided, coverage for mental health and substance use conditions be comparable to that for medical and surgical care. However, gaps in coverage currently leave millions either without such benefits or without parity protections.
In surveying coverage before the Affordable Care Act, the report finds:
- One-third of those currently covered in the individual market have no coverage for substance use disorder services, and nearly 20% have no coverage for mental health services. Even when individual market plans provide these benefits, the federal parity law does not apply to these plans.
- More common than in the individual market, about 95% of those with small group market coverage have substance abuse and mental health benefits. Again, the federal parity law does not apply.
- 47.5 million Americans lack health insurance coverage altogether, and 25% of uninsured adults have a mental health condition or substance use disorder or both.
The report outlines how the Affordable Care Act will address these numbers by expanding coverage of mental health and substance use disorder benefits and federal parity protections in three ways:
- By including mental health and substance use disorder benefits in the Essential Health Benefits;
- by applying federal parity protections to mental health and substance use disorder benefits in the individual and small group markets; and
- by providing more Americans with access to quality health care that includes coverage for mental health and substance use disorder services.
As a result, the report estimates that 62.5 million Americans will benefit from the expanded coverage bestowed by the Affordable Care Act and federal parity protections. This includes 27 million currently uninsured individuals who will gain mental health and substance use disorder benefits. In light of HSS’ finding that 1 in 4 adults in this population have a mental health or substance use condition, this arrives as nothing less than pivotal.
Read the entire brief here.
Gabrielle Nygaard is a Digital and Social Media Intern at Prichard Communications, where she assists on several accounts, including Reclaiming Futures. She is a student at Linfield College studying Mass Communication and Japanese. She is an Oregon native and health enthusiast.
Updated: February 08 2018