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Mental Health America Hails Enactment of Historic Health Care Reform Bill
Date:3/23/2010

ALEXANDRIA, Va., March 23 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Mental Health America today hailed the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" signed by the President today. The legislation will greatly expand access to mental health care and addiction treatment—particularly for the 32 million previously uninsured Americans who will gain access as a result.  

Treatment for these conditions is recognized as critical to overall health by being included on the list of essential benefits that must be covered in new plans offered to the uninsured.  

"This health care reform legislation marks a tremendous step forward in our efforts to improve access to care for individuals with mental health or substance use conditions and in our advocacy for prevention of these conditions," said David Shern, Ph.D., president and CEO of Mental Health America.

The groundbreaking achievement last year with the enactment of the "Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act" (MHPAEA) firmly established that discriminatory limits on these conditions will no longer be permitted.  Mental Health America is pleased to see the health care reform legislation carries this principle forward and extends the MHPAEA requirements beyond current law to health insurance plans offered to small businesses and individuals. These principles are also reflected in the expansion of Medicaid which would require those newly eligible to receive mental health and substance use services at parity with other benefits.

Access to care will also be improved due to insurance market reforms in this new law that will prohibit pre-existing condition exclusions, rescissions of coverage when people most need it, pricing premiums based on health status, and annual and lifetime limits on benefits.  

The health care reform law will also establish a new requirement that coverage for dependent children must be available up to age 26 and will provide additional funding for school-based health clinics.  Both provisions are critical in light of the fact that mental health conditions often strike during the adolescent and young adult years but most will not receive treatment until many years later, if at all.  

Mental Health America places a high priority on prevention, particularly among children and youth, and thus we are please with the new requirements to cover preventive services as well as programs to support community-based prevention activities.

"We also strongly support the provision in this law that will eliminate the donut hole in the Medicare prescription medication coverage as Medicare is a crucial source of support for millions of people with behavioral health conditions," Dr. Shern said.

Among the many other important new programs and reforms are initiatives to support education and training of additional mental health and addiction treatment providers and to improve coordination of care through a new state option for medical/health homes in Medicaid that includes individuals with serious mental health conditions among the priority populations.  

Mental Health America is the country's leading nonprofit dedicated to helping all people live mentally healthier lives. With our century of service to America and our more than 300 affiliates nationwide, we represent a national movement that promotes mental wellness for the health and well-being of the nation— everyday and in times of crisis.

SOURCE Mental Health America

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