What Does The American Health Care Act Do To Mental Health Care?


The American Health Care Act (AHCA), which passed the U.S. House on May 4, strips over $800 billion from Medicaid in the next 10 years, which will cause vital mental health services to be slashed.

The bill effectively ends Medicaid expansion—a lifeline for single adults with mental illness who fall through the cracks. 1 in 3 people covered by Medicaid expansion lives with a mental health or substance use condition.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 24 million will lose insurance for mental health care, pushing people with mental illness to emergency rooms, jails and the streets.

The bill allows states to let health plans:

  • Drop coverage of mental health and substance use (one of the essential health benefits).
  • Charge higher premiums if they have a pre-existing condition, like depression or anxiety. 
  • Create high-risk pools, which is another way of charging people with mental illness more money and providing less coverage.

The bill ensures that people with pre-existing conditions will not be refused coverage by health insurance plans. But it lets plans charge people with pre-existing conditions much more for coverage—a practice that was outlawed under the Affordable Care Act. Today, if you have a mental illness, you cannot be charged more for health insurance based on your condition. Under the AHCA, you could be charged significantly more than other people for the same coverage. This will make coverage unaffordable for many people with mental illness.

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