Mental health coverage mandates could strain the system


Mental health coverage mandates under the Affordable Care Act may strain the mental health system, The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal reported.

The healthcare reform law prevents insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing mental health issues and removes some limits to care, such as a 20-visit cap on therapy sessions in Delaware, according to the News Journal. But emerging mental health patients may exceed available resources.

For instance, one in four uninsured individuals has mental health or substance abuse conditions, the article noted. And thanks to healthcare reform, the Obama administration estimates up to 62 million more Americans will gain mental health coverage, Psychiatric News reported.

In Delaware alone, the ACA coverage mandates could open up doors for 30,000 patients, a state that already has 11 shortage areas of mental health practitioners.

To help relieve the overburdened system, Linda Nemes of the Delaware Insurance Commissioner's office said its issuers must certify an adequate network of providers to have an exchange contract and sell plans in the new marketplace, the News Journal noted.

Although the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) has been in place since 2008, and requires insurers cover mental illness similarly to chronic illnesses, it doesn't specify how insurers must guarantee parity for psychiatric care, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

Insurers could soon find clarity and direction on mental health coverage, as the Obama administration is expected to release the final MHPAEA rule soon, according to Psychiatric News.

For more:
- here's the News Journal article
- check out the Psychiatric News article

Related Articles:
Healthcare reform may improve access to substance abuse treatment
Pentagon's online mental health portal goes defensewide
Aetna, Blues plans expand mental health access
Mental parity leaves insurers unclear of coverage requirements
Vermont Blues rations metal health services, APA says