In the 21st century, the old proverb “A sound mind in a sound body” is no longer accurate. Unfortunately, being in good form physically does not prevent people from developing mental illnesses or becoming addicted to harmful substances. Such problems are harder to diagnose and no easier to treat. More than that, mentally unstable people are often a threat not only to themselves but to society as well. It is therefore high time that mental health insurance becomes a matter of public concern.
A significant part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act is dedicated to treatment for mental disorders and substance addiction. This development is of paramount importance. Firstly, substance abuse and mental issues are excluded as grounds for denying health insurance on the basis of a pre-existing condition. Secondly, poverty is one of the prime reasons people suffer from stress, thus making the poor a high-risk category in terms of mental health illnesses. Having no money can lead to psychological disorders, and the high cost of the required treatment will only add to the patient’s anxiety. In case one chooses to ignore the existing problem, it can escalate to the point where it becomes untreatable or, at the very least, the treatment is much more time- and cost-consuming. Extending insurance coverage and making mental health care more affordable to the population seems to be the way of breaking the vicious circle. Moreover, it can prevent people from developing suicidal or homicidal tendencies and restore their mental health, reinstating them as useful members of society instead of locking them up in tax-funded institutions.
However, the ACA is not the solution to all problems. For example, according to Martin (2015), “Missing from the ACA are public health services for the homeless that should provide a range of services such as diagnosis, medication, alcohol and drug treatment, and hospitalization” (para. 2), despite the fact that in many cases it is a mental disorder that led a person to become homeless in the first place.
Another problem is that in many parts of the country the balance between supply and demand sides of psychiatric and psychological care is unsettled by the shortage of qualified professionals. Therefore, even though the number of insured grows, access to medical health care can be quite difficult. Besides, treatment for mental and substance use disorders in many cases requires a different approach than that for physical illnesses. Thus, equating them in the insurance plan is not enough, since there are many nuances that are left unconsidered.
On the other hand, it is impossible to ignore the advantages of the ACA. According to Vaillancourt & Kelly (2014), it has positive implications for school-based mental health centers, ensuring “increased coverage for children and youth” and providing “financial incentive to states that voluntarily expanded eligibility to Medicaid” (para. 2). This is extremely beneficial since children and adolescents have high risks of developing mental disorders or becoming addicts.
In addition to that, the APA can serve as a stimulus for the evolution of the mental healthcare system. Rozensky (2013) states that psychologists should “[expand] their interprofessional communication skills [and] become more comfortable with the use of electronic health records and sharing clinical information about patients within teams [of professionals from different disciplines]” (para. 5). The level of professional accountability will increase as well: “psychology must have the same level of credentialing standards as all other disciplines […] to be part of organized, [more highly] accountable healthcare” (para. 14).
All in all, including mental health care and substance abuse treatment into the list of the ACA essential benefits, is a step in the right direction. With proper development, this governmental initiative is bound to bear great results, helping thousands of people overcome their problems and return to normal lives. The main stumbling block seems to be that treatment should not only be affordable but also accessible. Ensuring that there are enough behavioral health specialists everywhere throughout the USA territory is one of the measures that need to be taken to realize the great potential of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
Martin, E. J. (2015). Affordable Housing, Homelessness, and Mental Health: What Health Care Policy Needs to Address. Journal of Health and Human Services Administration, 38(1). Web.
Rozensky, R. H. (2013). A Brief Review of the Implications of the Affordable Care Act for the Practice of Psychology. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 32(4). Web.
Vaillancourt, K. & Kelly, J. (2014). The Affordable Care Act and School-Based Mental Health Services. Phi Delta Kappan, 96(4). Web.