The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Business

September 23, 2013

The Color of Money: The ACA and mental health care

—  When my brother, who had severe epilepsy, died of a massive seizure at 32, I needed to see a grief counselor. I had been his primary caretaker, and his death hit me hard.

     I was fortunate to have access to workplace insurance that included quality mental health services. It's a benefit I have come to really appreciate.

     But many people don't have access to such care.

     I was thinking about this as I followed news reports on the shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard in which 13 people were killed, including the gunman, and several others were injured. Police records and comments from people who knew the gunman, who had served in the Navy as a full-time reservist, indicate that he may have had mental health issues.

     Now comes the recovery. At least two workers at the Navy Yard reported that they were standing beside people who were gunned down, one shot in the head. One person said that when he got up from a crouched position, there were bullet holes near the top of the wall. I would ask the question, why not me? And I might need someone to help me deal with the trauma or guilt.

     I think about the folks who were working at the Navy Yard or other workplaces who have to deal with the aftermath of such tragedies. And while such incidents are rare, it is likely that you are working with people who are struggling with mental illnesses and need help to handle their condition. They aren't likely to go on a shooting spree, but they may drink too much, take illicit drugs or fall into a depression they can't shake.

     Although many large and small group insurance plans include services for some mental health and substance-use illnesses, there are gaps in coverage. About one-third of those who are currently covered in the individual market have no coverage for substance-use disorders and nearly 20 percent have no coverage for mental health cases, including outpatient therapy visits and inpatient crisis intervention and stabilization, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

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