National Council for Mental Wellbeing

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May 4, 2018

Joy Burwell
(202) 748-8789

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Council for Mental Wellbeing is outraged that the House passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which puts the lives of those who rely on Medicaid for lifesaving addiction and mental health care in jeopardy. The final amendments did nothing to mitigate its disastrous effects. We urge the Senate to do what the House of Representatives did not – stand up for what is right and ensure that the millions of Americans facing mental illnesses and addictions who currently get care under the Affordable Care Act are not left out in the cold.

Over the next 10 years, AHCA eliminates $880 billion from Medicaid—one of the most important payers of addiction and mental health services in the U.S., and states’ most critical tool to tackle the opioid epidemic. With their Medicaid budgets cut 25% over the next decade, states will be forced to eliminate lifesaving services—at a time when 91 people die each day from an opioid overdose. With these devastating cuts, AHCA obliterates recent gains from last year’s bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act and the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.

AHCA also weakens Americans’ protections under the 2008 parity law and undermines years of bipartisan investment in this popular law. AHCA gives states the ability to strip mental health and addiction benefits from coverage plans in their state while permitting insurers to set premiums for older Americans and the seriously ill so high they are effectively locked out of coverage. With this move, mental illness and addictions will once again be considered pre-existing conditions. For years, House members of both parties have promised that people with preexisting conditions would be protected. Today, those who voted for AHCA broke that promise.

The bill further weakens parity by allowing large employers to choose minimum benefit requirements from any state—including those who have waived all consumer protections permitted under AHCA—resulting in decreased coverage not just for those on Medicaid or in the individual market, but those in employer-sponsored plans as well.

Worst of all, the legislation makes these changes in the name of federal “savings” and alleged decreases to premiums for young, healthy Americans. The proposed “stability fund” and high-risk pools do far too little to make up for the gaps in coverage and care that will result when 24 million Americans lose their health insurance—and they don’t even come close to helping meet the unmet need for services in this country, with 60% of those with mental illness and 90% of those with addiction unable to access services for their condition.

The truth is simple: when we fail to fund mental health and addiction treatment services, we all pay for it. We pay for it in uncompensated care, increased costs to the corrections and legal system and increased disruption in the lives of individuals and families who are unable to access the care they need to live successfully in their community.

For years, the National Council has worked with legislators of all stripes to make real strides toward an America where everyone can get the health care they need. We cannot afford to go back.

AHCA is not the National Council’s vision for health care in America. It takes us back to the days when individuals with mental illness, like depression or anxiety, could be denied coverage. To the days when insurers could stop paying for an individual’s addiction treatment because they reached their lifetime cap. We stand united across party lines with those who see every day the devastating impact of untreated mental illnesses and addictions on our nation.

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The National Council for Mental Wellbeing is the unifying voice of America’s health care organizations that deliver mental health and addictions treatment and services. Together with our 2,900 member organizations serving over 10 million adults, children and families living with mental illnesses and addictions, the National Council is committed to all Americans having access to comprehensive, high-quality care that affords every opportunity for recovery. The National Council introduced Mental Health First Aid USA and more than 1 million Americans have been trained.