Mental Illness & Obamacare
Why Mental Disorders often go Untreated
In a given year, about 1 in 4 adults in the US suffer from a mental illness1 and often times these mental disorders go untreated often due to the out of pocket cost of diagnosing and treating mental illness. In 2009, the prescription cost to treat depression was $742 per person and almost $1,000 per person for ambulatory care2.
The Importance of Treating Mental Illness
Mental illness is often linked to chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, and cancer. It is also associated with drug and alcohol abuse. As a result, treating mental illness is not only key to an individual’s overall mental health but can also prevent general health problems.
Mental disorders can be costly not only to an individual but to the larger community. These larger economic costs can include unemployment, disability, and imprisonment. In a recent report conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), the cost of mental disorders is estimated to be about $2.5T in 2010 and is expected to grow to over $6T by 20303.
Affordable Care Act’s Expansion of Mental Health Coverage
Obamacare, or more formally known as the Affordable Care Act, reshaped the healthcare industry by guaranteeing health insurance coverage to all individuals, regardless if an individual suffers from a pre- existing condition (including mental illness).
In terms of diagnosing and treating mental illness, the Affordable Care Act has required all health plans to provide free preventive care services such as screening for depression in adults and assessments for behavioral disorders in children. The Essential Health Benefits within the Affordable Care Act also requires health plans to provide mental health coverage.
On December 10, 2013, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also announced it will provide $50 million to help Community Health Centers provide services for individuals suffering from mental illnesses, and drug and alcohol problems.
1 http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-in- america/index.shtml