MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES COULD DISAPPEAR WITH ACA REPEAL

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By Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service

Photo:  Millions of Americans struggling with mental health concerns gained access to services because of provisions in the Affordable Care Act. (Pixabay)

March 1. 2017 (Washington D.C.) – Plans to revamp the Affordable Care Act were among President Trump's talking points during last night's address before a joint session of Congress. And one sector of the population stands to be significantly impacted by changes to the healthcare law.

Peggy Hubbert, the executive director of the National Association for Mental Illness in Iowa, explains that because of policies and safeguards included in the ACA millions of Americans struggling with mental illnesses gained coverage over the past eight years. And she says many are low-income and have no other options.

"Sometimes they're on disability so then they also qualify for Medicaid, but not always," she said. "They might be employed in part-time or low-wage jobs that don't offer benefits. It can be problematic to maintain a full-time job that offers benefits."

Hubbert notes that Iowa has a shortage of mental-health providers and accessibility to services would become even more difficult if mental-health care is not required for insurance plans. Some experts say a disruption in services can be damaging to the functioning of individuals with mental-health concerns.

Some leaders have discussed keeping popular provisions of the Affordable Care Act including coverage for those with pre-existing conditions and allowing young adults to stay on their parents' health insurance until age 26. But Hubbert says no one has yet to explain how the healthcare law would continue to work without those measures.

And, she adds people are panicked about what the future would hold if the ACA is scrapped.

"Americans shouldn't be facing this,”' she added. "It's just really unfortunate to see us going through all of this all over again. And I really fear for the millions of Americans who have finally gained coverage who are now very much in fear of losing it. I just hope that elected officials take that seriously."

According to the association, about one in five Americans has a mental-health condition, but only half receive treatment.