This law means we can breathe a sigh of relief (and not go bankrupt) treating attention deficit. Here's why.
by Katherine Ellison
If you’ve been diagnosed with ADHD or are a parent of a diagnosed child, you’ve got a lot of reasons to pay attention to the fate of the Affordable Health Care Act. Whether Obamacare survives — and in what form.
Some have said that this policy change has been the victim of incompetent public relations. The extraordinary benefits for many millions of Americans have been underplayed amid controversies over much more minor issues, such as the flawed launch of the website and the relatively small number of Americans who would have to pay more for higher-quality policies.
Let’s focus on Obamacare’s four major benefits for people with attention challenges:
1) It makes mental and physical health care accessible to millions of Americans who previously couldn’t afford insurance.
That’s why it’s called the “affordable” care act. New subsidies will ensure that no one need be left uncovered. Given the potentially crippling costs of treating ADHD — which can leave people jobless, underemployed, or broke due to disabling distraction or substance abuse — this is huge.
2) It enforces previous legislation requiring insurance policies to cover mental health treatment.
Five years after the ballyhooed passage of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, insurers still haven’t been required to add mental health benefits to all policies. Currently, nearly 20 percent of Americans lack coverage for care, including outpatient therapy and inpatient crisis intervention, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The Affordable Care Act has new regulations to make sure that mental health treatment is covered to the same extent as physical care. Therapies for depression, anxiety, and substance abuse — which often come along with ADHD — are among a core set of 10 services called “essential health benefits” that must be covered with no out-of-pocket limit. Included in these are prescription medications, which aren’t assured on all current policies, but are usually a major component of ADHD treatment.
Unfortunately, this change is now threatened amid the new controversy over whether Americans with cheap, substandard policies will be obliged to pay more for comprehensive care.
3) A pre-existing condition won’t exclude you from getting affordable insurance.
My own situation isn’t rare. I was diagnosed with ADHD eight years ago, while getting health insurance through my husband’s employer. So was our son, who is now 18. Now my husband is planning to retire — maybe in the next year. As a freelance journalist, I don’t have my own policy.
Were it not for Obamacare, I’d now be anxiously second-guessing our decision to seek diagnoses and treatment. That might have excluded both of us from being covered in the future, or we might have had to settle for a policy that didn’t cover mental health. Given that ADHD treatment is often expensive, and that research shows that people who have it end up with significantly more expenses for accidents and other illnesses, these are no small concerns.
4) Children can remain on their parents’ policies until they’re 26.
As many parents with diagnosed kids understand, kids with ADHD are two or three years behind their peers in maturity. They have a harder time completing high school, not to mention college, and may face long delays in getting their first job. So that’s one more major expense and uncertainty potentially taken off our shoulders.
Many of us with ADHD have flocked to natural remedies to cope with the disorder. A lot of parents are uncomfortable with mainstream treatments, such as prescription medication. But every American will need conventional doctors at some point, something especially true for those of us whose innate distractibility makes us more accident-prone.
All this helps explain why, in this Thanksgiving season, I’m grateful for foresighted politicians, and the promise of at least fewer worries in 2014.
Katherine Ellison is a Pulitzer-prize winning former foreign correspondent and the author of Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention. www.katherineellison.com