Category Mental Health Reform

Medicaid Update: Can We Anticipate Changes in Eligibility and Benefits?

Amber Kirchhoff

Almost half of the people in the United States under the age of 65 who receive Medicaid benefits because of a disability access care for mental health conditions or substance use disorders. Among this population, 18 percent had experienced a mood disorder episode in the past year. Congress and the Trump Administration are focused on changing the structure of these benefits and other ways in which Americans access affordable healthcare. During this time of transition, CFYM will keep you updated on potential and actual healthcare policy changes and share personal stories illustrating how these changes may affect our ability to access care. (If you are concerned about changes to healthcare or if you have an experience to share with the CFYM community, you can submit your story, too!)

Amber Kirchhoff, Policy Associate
Thresholds

As a community-based provider serving nearly 15,000 clients annually, Thresholds recognizes the Affordable Care Act (“ACA” or “Obamacare”) as a major step forward in increasing access to treatment for individuals with mental health and substance use conditions. Intertwined with the near-certain repeal of the ACA are proposals for changing Medicaid. This is an important part of the conversation because many people with mental health and substance use conditions access care through Medicaid.

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Turning Our Eyes Back to the Brain

Doug Williamson

Doug Williamson, M.D.
Chief Medical Officer & Vice President for Lundbeck U.S. Drug Development

Care for Your Mind acknowledges and appreciates the collaboration of the American Brain Coalition in developing this series.

An epidemic
The world’s quietest healthcare crisis is one that starts between the ears.

When it comes to mental illness, the statistics are nearly too staggering to process. For instance, today, depression alone costs Americans an estimated $210 billion dollars each year, as millions of patients across the country struggle with a range of disabling symptoms – from loss of energy to insomnia to poor concentration – as well as massive lost productivity in the classroom, in the workforce, and on the home front. Meanwhile, while we are making such incredible strides in our treatment of cancer, Hepatitis C, HIV, and many other diseases, the tragedy and expense of mental illness accumulates by the day. According to the World Health Organization, by 2030, depression will be the leading global burden of disease.

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The Future for Depression Is Bright, But We Have to Be Patient

William Z. Potter

William Z. Potter, M.D., Ph.D., Foundation for the National Institutes of Health

Care for Your Mind acknowledges and appreciates the collaboration of the American Brain Coalition and the National Network of Depression Centers in developing this series.

Despite the hurdles that stand in the way of developing new treatments for depression and other mood disorders, I believe we have every reason to be optimistic.

When it comes to science, time is on our side, and the landscape for drug development will look much, much different in 10 to 20 years when we have a better understanding of the brain. But in the meantime, we need to find ways to help the millions of people who are suffering now.

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To Heal Depression, We Have to Learn More About the Brain

William Z. Potter

William Z. Potter, M.D., Ph.D., National Institutes of Health

Care for Your Mind acknowledges and appreciates the collaboration of the American Brain Coalition and the National Network of Depression Centers in developing this series.

With 350 million people worldwide suffering from depression and diagnoses rising steadily since the 1980s, you’d hope scientists would have a thorough understanding of this pervasive condition. Needless to say, we don’t. Not even close.

Despite decades of study, we’re just starting to scratch the surface when it comes to understanding the brain. Its complexity has proved a huge hurdle when it comes to developing effective new treatments for the millions of people dealing with depression.

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Repealing the ACA Could Cause a Mental Health Care Crisis

Jeffrey Harman, PhD
College of Medicine, Florida State University

Care For Your Mind acknowledges and appreciates the collaboration of the National Network of Depression Centers for developing this post.

Our nation’s healthcare system has made impressive progress in the last several years. As a direct result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), we’ve reached a record low uninsured rate; the number of unpaid medical bills (or bad debt) has plummeted; and 20 million Americans now have insurance purchased through the ACA marketplace.

But there are imminent threats facing this hard-won progress. Our newly-elected president is staunchly opposed to the ACA. He and congressional Republicans have vowed to repeal Obamacare, with no clear plan for what would replace it.

If they succeed, our country could be facing a health care crisis of unprecedented proportions. Millions of Americans could lose their coverage; hospitals could go bankrupt; people could pay thousands more in out-of-pocket costs.

Is our current healthcare system perfect? Of course not. But it’s a lot better than it was eight years ago, particularly for people living with mental health conditions. We need to continue to improve on what we’ve built, not abandon all progress and attempt to start from scratch.

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Patient-Focused Drug Development Gets a Boost From the 21st Century Cures Act

Medication

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Congress gave mental health advocates a year-end present by passing mental health reform legislation as part of the 21st Century Cures Act and sending it to President Obama for signature. This is the third of three CFYM posts that highlight key pieces of the legislation that benefit individuals living with mood disorders and their families.

The December 13 and December 20 CFYM posts focused on the mental health reform package that became part of the 21st Century Cures Act. This bipartisan legislation passed the U.S. House in July, had support in the Senate and from the President, and was well-positioned for a successful journey to becoming law. What most advocates had not foreseen, however, was that the mental health reform legislation that had been in advancing in varying degrees in both Chambers would be included in that bill.

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Congress Strengthens Mental Health Parity

Carol Rickard

Carol Rickard, Community Education and Outreach
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

With the stroke of his pen on December 13, 2016, as he signed the 21st Century Cures Act, President Obama moved our nation one step closer to treating the whole person and ensuring equal access to health care for individuals living with a mental health condition. This law addresses a wide range of health issues, including a major emphasis on mental health issues. In signing the legislation, the President put into motion critical provisions to improve implementation and enforcement of the 2008 parity law.

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (the Federal Parity Law) created much-needed protections for ensuring mental health is treated equally to physical health and ending the discriminatory practices used.  As was highlighted in the August 23, 2016 CFYM post, there has been a great void in implementation and enforcement because the federal law left much of the enforcement to the states. This, in turn, left significant gaps in protection to equal access for individuals in need of mental health treatment. The unintentional consequence: a law enacted to protect people has failed to do so.

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What Is the Future of Obamacare?

Health Insurance Photo

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

With Republicans moving into the White House and controlling both houses of Congress, what can the American people expect to happen to “Obamacare” and what impact will that have for those of us living with a mood disorder and our families? If Obamacare collapses, will we have access to mental health care?

Many people are unaware of the connection between mental health parity and Obamacare. Mental health parity became law in 2008, making it illegal for insurance plans to provide different levels of coverage for mental health care as compared to medical/surgical benefits. However, it was the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA); often referred to as “Obamacare” that required all health insurance plans governed by this law to offer mental health coverage in the first place. Until Obamacare, insurance plans could side-step parity by simply not offering mental health coverage. As a new administration gets ready to take charge, many people are asking if they will still have affordable access to insurance plans that provide both physical and mental health coverage.

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