What the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Means for the Future of Mental Health Care

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed in March of this past year, and aims to improve all aspects of our country’s health services. One aspect that will be much-improved is the area of mental health care.

Insufficient coverage and a lack of programs that educate the public on mental illness have plagued the United States for quite some time. With the passage of the new law, a number of new provisions aim to change the public’s perception of mental illnesses and offer programs and other initiatives to help those who need mental health care. A few of those provisions include:

  • Improvements to Medicaid (including the expansion of eligibility) that will allow more people to experience the benefits of mental health services
  • Several new options for people with disabilities
  • Improve coordination and communication between primary care and mental health services
  • Much more…

Essentially, what this means is that, over time, individuals with mental illnesses will have access to health insurance that covers mental illness and substance abuse services, giving people unprecedented help and cooperation from the government. Other services include prevention programs, new insurance plans for long-term community care, and more.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act also aims to improve health services in the workplace. It specifies that starting in 2014, employers can offer bigger incentives for employees’ positive lifestyle practices or participation in health promotion programs. The PPACA also creates a grant program to assist small businesses to provide comprehensive workplace wellness programs. Grants will be awarded to eligible employers to provide their employees with access to new workplace wellness initiatives.

The grants will be awarded beginning in 2011 with $200 million appropriated for a five-year period. The PPACA spells out that a comprehensive workplace wellness program must be made available to all employees and include health awareness initiatives(including health education, preventive screenings, and health risk assessments) as well as supportive environment efforts (including workplace policies to encourage healthy lifestyles, healthy eating, increased physical activity, and improved mental health).

The improved workplace atmosphere when it comes to mental illness awareness is particularly important, as knowledge about mental health is notoriously absent from workplace programs. It has been studied that employees are eager to become more understanding of mental illnesses and ways to treat them, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act aims to accomplish that.

Mental health services will be experiencing a major renovation with the government’s commitment to overall health care reform. Those with mental illnesses will find it easier to seek help and others will find much more information on mental illnesses to create a better understanding of how these health services operate. By creating a more cohesive health care system for mental illnesses, our society will not only become more fluid in its operations, but more knowledgeable and, therefore, better for it.

The Economical Consumer Directed Health Care

To counter the problem of health-care financing in the USA, Consumer-directed health care (referred as CDHC) has emerged in the recent past, designed to decrease the health spending by providing financial incentive for consumers to choose the best health care proposition. With both public and private sector financiers looking to reduce their health-care expenses, CDHC has been opted as a way of bringing greater efficiency and cost control into health care.

Consumer Directed Health Care refers to health insurance plans that permit patients to use medical payment products like personal Health Savings Accounts, Health Reimbursement Arrangements etc as a mode of settling the routine medical claims. So, patients have more control over their health budgets as they pay through consumer-controlled accounts for routine medical claims as opposed to a fixed health insurance benefit. Principally, it aims at giving patients greater control over their health care, both economically and medically. It is also meant to improve healthy competition among health care providers to increase the range of patient control.

Consider this example. A health savings account (HSA) linked with a high deductible health plan lets you take care of routine claims through HSA and other high claims through the regular health plan. This is a typical CDHC plan with a lower premium than a traditional health plan premium, allowing you to take charge of your routine health-care expenses in turn making you more aware of the cost and quality of care involved before spending your money.

There are tax advantages as well like in the case of HSA. However, each individual needs are different and a health insurance plan must be taken after careful consideration and professional advice on the matter.