By Sita Diehl, NAMI Director of State Policy and Advocacy
Oct. 1 is right around the corner and it is time to spread the word that new health insurance options are available in every state as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). We all know someone whose quality of life would improve if they were able to obtain the mental health care they need. The website www.healthcare.gov provides clear, simple answers on what is available, including for those who has been turned down for private insurance in the past.
For nearly 11 million uninsured Americans who live with mental illness, obtaining mental health care is a daunting prospect. If you are lucky, you can acquire basic medication or counseling on a sliding fee scale from a community mental health agency or health clinic. Some resort to self-medication, despite its immense risk, to find relief. For those who are self-employed, counseling and medications can cost hundreds of dollars a month. Moreover, case management and other evidence-based recovery supports are only offered through the public system and unavailable for purchase. A person may also be under-insured, wherein mental health benefits are not included or deductibles and copays are so high that doctor’s visits are delayed and medications rationed.
But changes will be made on Oct. 1 when the new Health Insurance Marketplace opens for enrollment. You, your family, your affiliate members and their families will be able to apply and enroll in quality health coverage with parity mental health benefits—at little or no cost—with coverage activating as early as Jan. 1, 2014.
Are you confused about what this really means for you?
Don’t worry, there are resources out there. To promote mental health advocates’ and consumers’ understanding of what the new health care law provides, NAMI and our allies partnered with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to develop a narrated training toolkit called Getting Ready for the Health Insurance Marketplace. In just 30 short minutes, the toolkit reviews a wealth of free information to assist you and those you care about in taking advantage of the new coverage. The presentation is available here.
We all have an important role to play in making sure everyone has the best health coverage available to meet their needs. Learning about these resources is a crucial first step in helping both yourself and those around you lead a fuller, healthier life.