Cynthia Persily, PhD, RN, FAAN
One of the main topics of conversation in the newspaper and media, in board rooms, and in homes around the country with the start of this new year is the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as “Obamacare”. For the last several months, I have been reading, discussing, and researching how the ACA impacts Highland and the people we serve. My conclusion is that this is an opportunity for us to provide care to more people in need of mental health care. Allow me to explain.
Mental health care will be accessible to more people under the ACA. Whether they choose to go to the federal marketplace to purchase insurance with or without subsidies, or they become eligible in our state due to Medicaid expansion, more people will have access to health insurance, which means more people will have access to quality mental health care services than ever before.
Under the ACA, people cannot be denied insurance coverage based on their pre-existing conditions. Worries about changing employers or insurance due to pre-existing disorders are removed. For those people who have a diagnosis of depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, or ADHD, they will get the care they need and have it covered without the fear of loss or denial of insurance.
Future incentives in the ACA to care for people across the continuum of care and to provide preventative care will mean that people will get better overall care. The integration of mental health services into primary care, and vice versa, can only serve to improve the health of all people.
Finally, Medicaid expansion, like that in West Virginia, will cause more people to qualify for Medicaid than ever before. Medicaid will pay for necessary mental health services like counseling, hospitalization, and medication for people who previously had no access to those services.
What does this mean for Highland?
- We will have the opportunity to serve more clients than ever before. We will need to be ready to provide care in new ways to handle the increased demand for services. We are leaders in innovative models of care, and this will be our time to shine.
- We will have more opportunities to care for people across the continuum of care. With our outpatient and inpatient mental health services, as well as primary care and pharmacy services, we are already positioned. We will have an opportunity to build and coordinate these services in ways that we haven’t before.
- We will have a source of payment for many of our patients who were hospitalized for acute inpatient care without a payment source. This can help our bottom line, while more importantly continuing to allow us to offer the services that our patients need.
At Highland, we know that access to health insurance increases access to high quality mental health care and services. We are ready for the challenge of providing the highest quality mental health care for all!