Obamacare Repeal Jeopardizes Mental Health, Addiction Coverage

Jayne O’Donnell and Terry DeMio, USA TODAY Network

Published 11:00 a.m. ET Jan. 8, 2017 | Updated 3 hours ago

This article has been re-shared from it’s original source, USAToday.com

Sherri Reynolds’ son Qual has been drug free for 16 months, thanks in large part to treatment he got through Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Reynolds knows firsthand what can happen when people can’t get coverage: Her 20-year-old stepson, Jarvis, suffered from mental illness and killed himself in 2010 after he couldn’t get medical treatment. He bounced in and out of foster care and the juvenile justice system.

“I really hope they don’t dismantle Obamacare and I don’t understand why they would dismantle something which is credited for saving so many lives,” says Sherri Reynolds.

As Congress works to repeal the Affordable Care Act with the support of President-elect Donald Trump, people with addiction and mental health disorders, their families and treatment providers wonder how patients would maintain their sobriety — and psyches — without insurance coverage.

The people helped the most by the ACA are the ones most likely to suffer from poor mental health and addiction. Nearly 30% of those who got coverage through Medicaid expansion have a mental disorder, such as anxiety or schizophrenia, or an addiction to substances, such as opioids or alcohol, according to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. That compares to the more than 20% of the overall population — 68 million people — who experienced a diagnosable mental health or substance abuse disorder in the past year, the American Psychiatric Association says.

In New Hampshire, which has the highest synthetic opioid death rate in the country, Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is reminding Trump about some of his campaign promises in her state.

“He pledged to take on this crisis, not immediately make matters much worse,” Shaheen said in an email Friday. “Repealing the Affordable Care Act without a replacement is highly reckless and will come at a high cost for people struggling with substance use disorders.”

Almost any route taken on Capitol Hill leads to an unraveling of addiction and mental health.coverage for these people. Even the partial ACA repeal Congress is considering would eliminate the tax credits that reduce the premiums for about 85% of those who buy insurance on the federal and state exchanges. Most of those who get tax credits pay less than $100 a month for insurance and have very low out-of-pocket costs that make it possible for them to afford coverage.

The partial repeal would also scrap the expansion of Medicaid that gave millions of the lowest-income people in 31 states insurance. Instead, states would most likely get block grants that would require them to make cuts in what’s covered, how much is spent and how many people can get coverage. States might instead get a set amount per person, which would also lead to cuts as the overall goal is cutting spending.




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