When the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented in 2014, over 32 million Americans will get access to substance abuse and mental health treatments not currently available to the uninsured or through today’s most common health insurance policies.
The administration calls this expansion the largest of its kind in a generation, which places mental health and substance abuse therapies among the ten “Essential Health Benefit” categories laid out by the law. The law also requires insurance providers to cover mental health and substance abuse in “parity” with other coverage options, emphasizing their importance among disorders that modern medicine can address.
“If they get into recovery and they’re taking care of everything as far as their health is concerned, then we’ll see less emergency room visits for just regular things, because substance abusers also have health care needs,” a spokesperson for the Access Community Health Network told The Associated Press.
The Department of Health and Human Services says that approximately 3.9 million individual insurance policy holders in the U.S. today do not have access to insured care in the event of drug addiction or serious mental health problem. In addition, the agency says that about 1.2 million people who hold small group health insurance plans lack access to substance abuse and mental health care.
Medicaid will also be offering substance abuse coverage starting in 2014, with the expanded program aimed at helping the remaining 27 million Americans who have no insurance whatsoever. The combined grand total of people the government expects will have new access to these services starting next year is 32.1 million.
The law’s “parity” protection will further enhance coverage for an additional 30.4 million people, expanding options for those whose policies already offer some limited help for mental health and substance abuse disorders.
“This is probably the most profound change we’ve had in drug policy ever,” Michael Botticelli, deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, told the AP. “We know one of the most significant reasons for the treatment gap is folks who don’t have insurance or who have an inadequate coverage package for substance use disorders.”
This video is from The Associated Press, published Tuesday, April 16, 2013.