Read the Full Petition
To Our Government Officials,
The undersigned mental health providers, healthcare administrators, patients, family members, and other concerned citizens would like to bring to your attention the importance of mental health in the ongoing healthcare reform process. Once again, Congress appears poised to take up the laudable task of fixing our nation’s healthcare system. In this effort, President Trump has stated that he would like to maintain certain popular provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including banning discrimination against patients with preexisting conditions and allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26. The undersigned believe that this list should also include key portions of the law that extend mental health parity and insurance coverage.
The ACA made unprecedented headway in extending coverage for mental health care and ensuring that the financial burden for treatment would be equal to that of medical and surgical care on the individual and small group insurance markets. This is a concept known as mental health parity, and it effectively prevents insurance companies from discriminating against people who need psychiatric care. This means that treatments for autism, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and opioid use disorders are considered just as important as treatments for diabetes, stroke, cancer, and other medical illnesses. The recent Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health showed that mental health and substance abuse treatment are absolutely essential for obtaining optimal physical health and controlling costs in our system. While the cost of untreated mental illness is staggering in both dollars and human suffering, the cost of extending parity has been consistently shown to be negligible or even cost-neutral, all while providing important financial protections and health benefits to patients and their families.
The effort to achieve parity and reform mental health care has historically garnered bipartisan support. President Bill Clinton signed the first federal Mental Health Parity Act, and President George W. Bush greatly extended it through the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. The ACA built on these laws by further extending parity protections to an additional 62 million Americans on individual and small group insurance plans. The ACA also, for the first time, required that coverage for mental illness and substance abuse treatment be included in all individual and small group plans as an Essential Health Benefit. Most recently, the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act will provide various important mental health care reforms including more rigorous enforcement of parity.
The undersigned recognize, however, that these parity advancements are only relevant if people have insurance coverage in the first place. The Medicaid expansion made significant progress in reducing the uninsured rate among the most vulnerable members of our society—a population with a disproportionate number of individuals suffering from serious mental illnesses. Although there has been disagreement on the best way to provide coverage for this population, any future reform should either maintain the ACA’s advancements to the social safety net or create other strong protections that focus on preserving robust coverage of and timely access to mental health and addiction care.
The undersigned believe that the parity extensions, Essential Health Benefit requirement, and Medicaid expansion are critical pieces of legislation that make our healthcare system more efficient, just, and equitable. In addition to maintaining these ACA provisions, continued reform is vitally needed to further mental health access by addressing the shortage of qualified providers and improving the availability of services. As our representatives, we ask that you advocate for holding onto and extending all the advances achieved for behavioral health care in the last two decades and continue to prioritize mental health reform in the new congressional session.
Thank you for your consideration and your service,
Your Concerned Constituents