Medicaid is the primary insurer of people with mental health and substance use disorders, and therefore the primary funder of BH services nationally. We at Mental Health Partnerships have grave concerns about the American Health Care Act and the president's proposed budget which contain deep cuts to Medicaid. The Congressional Budget Office found that The American Health Care Act passed by the house would cut Medicaid by $880 billion over 10 years. Additionally, the bill proposes the phase out of Medicaid expansion which has expanded health access to over 700,000 Pennsylvanians.
We have made astonishing gains underneath Medicaid Expansion in PA. Roughly one quarter of the total expansion population has accessed behavioral health care and the same goes for the exchange population. These access rates are phenomenal considering we estimate 1 in 5 people in the total population has a mental health need. Unfortunately, the proposed cuts would rob us of these gains and rip apart the community-based system of care many have spent decades building.
We cannot go back. Call your Senator today and let them know that you support Medicaid and are opposed to Medicaid cuts and the phaseout of Medicaid expansion.
Equal Access to Behavioral Healthcare (Parity)
Historically, people with behavioral health conditions (mental health or substance use disorder) have had more difficulty accessing care than people with physical health conditions. Care was more expensive, paperwork was more onerous, and it was more challenging to get in to see a provider. Passed in 2008, the Mental Health Parity and Addictions Equity Act (“Parity”) was intended to make sure that private insurance plans that covered more than 50 people covered mental health and substance use care the same way they treated physical care.The ACA further expanded the scope of parity by requiring that individual and small group plans be parity compliant and mandated that insurers offer a behavioral health benefit.
The majority of our nation's insurance plans are now covered under parity, but there are still violations in the system. People should be able to access behavioral healthcare just as easily as physical healthcare. There are currently three bills up in the Pennsylvania General Assembly that would support parity implementation in our state: HB 440, HB 115, and HB 117. If you believe people should have easy access to behavioral healthcare through their insurance, call your state Representative today and urge them to co-sponsor these bills.
The most recently passed budget out of the house, HB 218 includes $9 million dollars in cuts to behavioral health funding. $4 million would reduce treatment availability for people with substance use disorder and $5 million would hit county community-based mental health dollars. This is a small amount of money in the larger budget but would have a substantial impact on our communities. These are flexible dollars that can be used for innovative, non-billable programs. The Pennsylvania General Assembly must restore these cuts as well as prior year cuts that have never been restored.
Reducing Criminal Justice Involvement
It's well documented that people with mental health conditions are dramatically over-represented in our criminal justice system, most for minor, non-violent offenses. We support programs that have been proven to successfully divert or prevent recidivism for people with mental health conditions including Crisis Intervention Team training, pre-arrest diversion, mental health courts, and intensive re-entry supports.