APA Calls on Senate to Reject Deeply Flawed Health Care Proposal

ARLINGTON, Va. — The American Psychiatric Association urges the Senate to reject the troubling and harmful health care reform proposal released today by Senate Republicans. The Senate proposal, like the House-passed American Health Care Act (AHCA), falls short of providing needed mental health care benefits and protections to those most vulnerable.

The Senate is expected to vote on the health care reform bill before its July 4 recess. The bill rolls back Medicaid expansion, caps the Medicaid program significantly cutting back funding to states, and allows states to waive critical essential health benefits including mental health and substance use treatment coverage.

APA also expresses serious concerns about the secretive process under which it was drafted and the lack of time for review and debate. Physicians and their patients were not consulted in the process. Consequently, the legislation will have significant negative impacts on care for people with mental illness and substance use disorders.

“Eliminating requirements for coverage of key benefits, including mental health and substance use disorders and other patient protections that are part of the Affordable Care Act, will have detrimental impacts for millions,” said APA President-Elect Altha Stewart, M.D. “Mental health is critical to overall health and needs to be equally accessible.”

APA opposes changes to Medicaid that would lead to a significant number of Americans losing coverage. An estimated 2.8 million Americans with substance use disorders and 1.3 million with serious mental illness have gained coverage for the first time under the expansion of Medicaid in the current law. Medicaid expansion has been an important resource in helping address the opioid epidemic, providing access to treatment for many caught up in the crisis.

“The Senate proposal represents a significant move in the wrong direction, resulting in fewer people having access to insurance, fewer patient protections, and less coverage for essential behavioral health care,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “We urge the Senate to reject this harmful legislation and start again on a health care bill that puts patients first.”

APA has previously joined with many other health care organizations in expressing serious reservations with the House health care proposal passed in May. The House-passed American Health Care Act (AHCA) would strip 23 million people of their health insurance coverage. Medicaid program cuts totaling more than $800 billion over ten years are particularly alarming. Medicaid is the largest provider of behavioral health services for psychiatric patients. ACHA would also end the guaranteed inclusion of mental health and substance use disorder treatment services in the list of essential health benefits currently covered under the Affordable Care Act.

The American Psychiatric Association is the oldest medical association in the country founded in 1844. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 37,000 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses. APA’s vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment.

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