Mental Health Organizations Weigh in on ACA Ruling

Deborah Brauser

June 28, 2012

June 28, 2012 — Various mental health organizations are voicing approval for today's decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).

As reported earlier by Medscape Medical News, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the ACA is constitutional and that its controversial individual mandate is a tax issue and not one of commerce.

Although several opponents, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), have vowed to soon call for a repeal of the ACA, health insurance coverage granted when the reform law was first passed in 2010 will continue for now.

"The law is especially significant because, when fully implemented along with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, it will protect the rights of individuals with mental illnesses to have access to appropriate care," said Dilip V. Jeste, MD, president of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), in a release.

Dr. Jeste added that the APA is committed to making sure that insurance coverage is available to all individuals with mental health needs, including intellectual developmental disorders and substance use disorders.

"The financial and human cost of untreated mental illness is enormous, and much work remains to ensure adequate mental health coverage and access to care. APA will continue to work with members, allied health organizations, and others to advocate for patients and physicians," he said.

Coverage for All

The American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry (AAGP) noted that they are "very pleased" with today's Supreme Court decision. "We support legislation that increases access to health care," the AAGP told Medscape Medical News.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) echoed the call for "health insurance for all" in their own statement.

"The Supreme Court's decision means that the American people can continue to move forward to build a health care system that covers everyone," said Michael J. Fitzpatrick, executive director of NAMI.

"No system is perfect, but it has been clear for some time that many Americans support specific provisions of the law — such as that requiring insurance coverage of preexisting medical conditions. The decision protects that provision, along with others that are important to people living with mental illness," he added.

"The law is a foundation. Let's keep building on it."

Almost 62,000 individuals with preexisting conditions have been able to gain health coverage through the ACA's Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plans.

And the ACA may result in 34 million additional uninsured Americans gaining coverage beginning in 2014 through subsidies, insurance market reforms, and Medicaid expansions, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

In addition, the law has helped in tightening the so-called "doughnut hole," or Medicare drug benefit gap, for older adults. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have reported that seniors enrolled in part D drug plans saved more than $3.5 billion between 2010 and 2011 on prescription medications. The doughnut hole is scheduled to be completely closed by 2020.

The entire ACA decision is available for download at the Supreme Court's Web site.

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