Nora Zarabia faced a difficult – and all too common -- question when her 20-year-old son, Alex, was diagnosed with a substance use disorder. How was she going to pay for the help he needed?
Fortunately for Alex, Nora’s health insurance – thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – allowed him the opportunity to receive addiction treatment and care under her policy until age 26. After that, he can obtain insurance on his own that will cover his treatment needs. The ACA requires insurers to cover mental health and substance use disorder treatment at the same level they’d cover any other medical treatment. Without the care he received, Alex may not have entered recovery and gotten back on track at school, building the life he and his mom had hoped for.
As we celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act becoming law, we celebrate that millions more people have health insurance than before. And that’s not all there is to celebrate. The ACA establishes the biggest expansion of mental health and substance use disorder coverage in a generation. It requires insurers to provide mental health and substance use disorder benefits at parity with coverage for any other medical condition, like diabetes or heart diseases. In total, this expansion creates new opportunities for substance use disorder and mental health care for more than 60 million Americans.[i]
Research highlights an increase in utilization of inpatient care for mental health and substance use disorder services among young adults between 2010 and 2012, according to the Health Care Cost Institute.[i]
The Affordable Care Act offers a profound change for those who suffer from substance use disorders – one that has proven time and time again to save lives. Millions of Americans, like Nora and Alex, have had a burden lifted by having options and access to quality care.
The Obama Administration is committed to restoring a balance to U.S. drug-control efforts by focusing on public health to reduce drug use and its consequences. By decreasing the number of uninsured Americans and cutting costs, the Affordable Care Act plays a crucial role in connecting Americans to the resources they need.
We’ve made great progress: after five years of the Affordable Care Act, 16 million people have gained health coverage.
That’s something to cheer about. So on this anniversary, let’s celebrate opportunity and progress – for our loved ones, for our communities, and for our nation.
[i] Health Care Cost Institute, Issue Brief No. 8: Selected Health Care Trends for Young Adults (ages 19-25): 2007-2012. September 2014. Available online at http://www.healthcostinstitute.org/files/IB8_YA_09242014.pdf.
[i] U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, ASPE Issue Brief: Affordable Care Act Expands Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Benefits and Federal Parity Protections for 62 Million Americans. February 2013. Available online at http://aspe.hhs.gov/health/reports/2013/mental/rb_mental.cfm