The term “mental illness” does not have the same stigma attached to it that it used to. Partly due to public education on the subject, people are recognizing symptoms and feeling more comfortable seeking treatment. However, without health insurance coverage, receiving the proper mental health treatment can be nearly impossible due to high costs.
It has been estimated that half of Americans will experience some form of mental illness at some point in their lives. Issues range far and wide from conditions like depression and anxiety to mania and paranoid schizophrenia.
So, how will the Affordable Care Act (ACA) help the millions of Americans with mental illness?
No more annual and lifetime caps on health insurance coverage
In the past, people with mental illness and substance disorders have been limited in the amount of coverage their health insurance carrier would pay for. In some cases, their mental health needs would not be eligible for coverage at all.
Mental illness may no longer be viewed as a pre-existing condition
This is major news. Just as the ACA prevents insurers from classifying physical ailments as pre-existing conditions, mental illness cannot be defined as such, either.
Young people can stay on a parents’ insurance until the age of 26
This provision of the ACA has been in effect since 2010, and is a major benefit for those with mental illness. 75 percent of psychiatric illnesses have already developed in people by the time they turn 25 years old. Early detection and treatment are key components of managing mental health issues.
Potential to curb mental health-related social problems
It will be interesting to see if the ACA has an even larger impact on communities in ways we haven’t necessarily imagined. Of course, without our trusty crystal ball, there is no way to be sure. However – here are some facts to consider:
- The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimated that 7.7 million Americans suffer from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
- 40 percent of individuals with schizophrenia go untreated in any given year
- 51 percent of bipolar individuals go untreated
- Of those who die by suicide, 90 percent have a diagnosable mental disorder