The Affordable Care Act and Expanding Mental Health Coverage

President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the National Conference on Mental Health

President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the National Conference on Mental Health in the East Room of the White House, June 3, 2013. Standing with the President, from left, are: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Last June, the President hosted the National Conference on Mental Health to talk about how we can raise awareness of mental health issues and make it easier for Americans of all ages to reach out and get help. The President’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget proposal includes a strong focus on mental health by investing in helping teachers and other adults recognize the signs of mental illness in students and referring them to help if needed; supporting innovative state-based programs to improve mental health outcomes for young people ages 16-to-25; and helping to train 5,000 additional mental health professionals with an emphasis on serving students and young adults. 

ACA and mental health panel

Dr. Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Christen Linke-Young, Director of Coverage Policy in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Health Reform; Pamela Hyde, Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and Stephanie Valencia, Special Assistant to the President and Principal Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement discuss the Affordable Care Act and mental health at the White House, August 21, 2013.

But we know that it’s not enough. If we’re going to help more Americans seek treatment, we also need to make sure they have coverage when they do. That is why implementation of the Affordable Care Act is a major focus of our mental health agenda. Today, health care providers, mental health advocates, and individuals who have personally experienced mental illness came to the White House to talk about the intersection of two important Presidential priorities: the Affordable Care Act and mental health. The gathering focused on the mental health benefits in the health care law and what we all can do to help Americans get the affordable health care coverage – including mental health care coverage – they need.

The Affordable Care Act is already helping to make health care more accessible and affordable for American families. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act:

  • 71 million privately insured people have gained improved coverage for preventive services
  • 105 million Americans have had lifetime limits removed from their insurance
  • 3.1 million young adults have gained insurance through their parents’ plans, and
  • Over 6.6 million people with Medicare have saved over $7 billion in prescription drug discounts.

The Health Insurance Marketplaces, opening in just a few short weeks, will give individuals and families the chance to learn about and shop for affordable health insurance options. Millions of Americans who don’t have insurance will be able to go to healthcare.gov and comparison shop between an array of private health insurance plans.  And eligible individuals and families can qualify for tax credits that will make private insurance even more affordable.

The Affordable Care Act builds on the Mental Health Parity and Addictions Equity Act to expand mental health and substance use disorder benefits and federal parity protections for more than 60 million Americans. New health plans are now required to cover preventive services like depression screenings for adults and behavioral assessments for children at no additional cost. And starting next year, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny health care coverage to anyone because of a pre-existing mental health condition.

This Administration is committed to helping people with mental health and substance abuse issues get the care they need, and the Affordable Care Act is playing an important role in achieving this goal. To learn more about the Affordable Care Act and to sign-up for updates, visit healthcare.gov.

Cecilia Muñoz is the Director of the Domestic Policy Council
Related Topics: Health Care
JUMP TO: