WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ten years ago today, President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law. In addition to its main objective of expanding health insurance coverage to 30 million Americans, the reform package also included a number of elements related to psychiatric care, which have ultimately increased access to treatment for people with serious mental illness and substance use disorder.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) supported the ACA at the time and has monitored its implementation, particularly as it pertains to ensuring mental health and substance use services remain a part of the essential health benefits and that these benefits are provided parity protections offered as part of the health insurance exchanges established by the law. As legal challenges to ACA have arisen, most recently in Texas, et al., v. United States of America, et al., and California, et al., (currently pending in the Supreme Court), APA has joined with other organizations in the medical community to argue for its preservation.
“When the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010, it constituted a sea change in the way people could access health care, and particularly mental health care,” said APA President Bruce Schwartz, M.D. “Preserving that access is incredibly important now as the nation faces the physical and mental health impacts of COVID-19.”
The protections in the ACA have led to 2.8 million Americans with substance use disorder and 1.3 million Americans with serious mental illness gaining coverage.
“Many research studies have demonstrated a clear benefit of the Affordable Care Act for people with mental illness and substance use disorders, and now, more than ever, it is needed,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “Although the full promise of mental health parity is yet to be achieved, the ACA has provided care for millions of Americans, saved lives and, if left to stand, it will for years to come.
American Psychiatric Association
The American Psychiatric Association, founded in 1844, is the oldest medical association in the country. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 38,800 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses. APA’s vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. For more information please visit www.psychiatry.org.