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Starting in 2014, the Affordable Care Act (sometimes referred to as Obamacare) will begin to take effect. A comprehensive summary of the entire Act can be found here, but here’s a quick overview of some of the changes that will take place:

  • Comprehensive and accessible treatment options
  • Coverage for pre-existing conditions
  • No more dropped coverage due to illness
  • More access to preventative care
  • Restrictions on lifetime and annual limits
  • Coverage for young adults under parents’ plan until age 26
  • More access to Medicaid**

Affordable Care Act & Mental Health

The Affordable Care Act offers some benefits that specifically impact mental health care and treatment. These benefits are an expansion of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, which required insurance providers to treat mental health/substance abuse issues as equal to physical illnesses or disorders. While all of the specifics aren’t known yet, below are some of the changes that will occur in regards to mental health:
  • There will be increased coverage for mental health services. About20%  of people who currently have insurance receive no benefits for treatment of mental illnesses. Treatment, certain prevention services and screening for mental health issues (including substance abuse) will also be covered under the Affordable Care Act.
  • Those who are uninsured or underinsured are now able to get coverage. Mental health issues or disorders have previously been a barrier to receiving or affording coverage, as it could be considered a pre-existing condition. After the Affordable Care Act takes effect, pre-existing conditions can no longer factor in availability or cost of coverage.
  • Funding for mental health services and centers will increase. The Affordable Care act also mandates that funding for community mental health centers will increase by $11 billion over the next five years, which includes expanding both preventative and behavioral health services. A portion of this funding will also be dedicated to renovation of existing community health centers or the construction of new centers.
  • People will now have the opportunity to designate “health homes”. Those who are eligible for Medicaid will be able to assign health homes, which are medical homes for people who have a serious, chronic condition that may require extended care. The goal of these health homes is to integrate all aspects of a person’s care in a way that promotes comprehensive wellness.


Those who are uninsured will be required to purchase insurance, or face a penalty per the individual mandate. Subsidies will be in place to help people afford this insurance if they are unable to. However, there are exemptions to the penalty in certain situations such as inability to afford the premium or religious objection.

Immigrant or Undocumented?

According to the National Immigration Law Center, lawfully present immigrants will have restricted or limited benefits, while undocumented immigrants will receive no benefits. A full list of coverage information for each group is available here.

How to sign up

You can visit the official marketplace website at, or click here to find the marketplace website for your state. The marketplace enrollment dates are from October 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014. Those who enroll by December 15, 2013 will have coverage effective January 1, 2014.

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Insurance was originally published on | Redefining Mental Health


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