Newswise — WASHINGTON -- The American Psychological Association and its affiliated APA Practice Organization expressed disappointment that the House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act and urged the Senate to reject the bill, which is projected to take health insurance away from millions of Americans and undermine the vitally important Medicaid program.

“The American Health Care Act passed by the House today by a vote of 217 to 213 is significantly worse than the version considered last month,” said APA President Antonio E. Puente, PhD.  “The bill now opens the door to health plans once again charging exorbitant premiums to the tens of millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions.  It is estimated that about 45 million Americans experience a behavioral health condition over the course of a year. The $8 billion payment to states for setting up a high-risk pool would cover only about 76,000 people -- this is barely a drop in the bucket.”

“People shouldn’t forget the earlier Congressional Budget Office estimate that the original bill would leave 24 million Americans without health insurance by 2026 – mostly because of cuts to Medicaid.  We have no idea what the modified bill will cost as the House did not wait for the CBO to reanalyze it,” said Puente.  Medicaid currently provides roughly a quarter of all financing for mental health services. The American Health Care Act would cut funding for Medicaid by $839 billion over the next ten years, and remove the requirement that Medicaid expansion plans cover essential health benefits packages including mental and behavioral health and substance use treatment.  “These changes would force states to reduce both enrollments and benefits, harming tens of millions of lower-income Americans who are most at risk of having a mental health, behavioral or substance use disorder,” added Puente.

The legislation also eliminates vitally important funding for the Prevention and Public Health Fund, and prohibits funding for providers that primarily offer reproductive health services under Medicaid.  This change will effectively curtail access to care for many low-income women and sexual and gender minorities, many of whom may not have access to health care if they cannot access these service providers.

APA also expressed concern about the AHCA’s proposed changes to the private health insurance market, allowing insurers to offer less coverage and higher deductibles, increasing out-of-pocket costs for lower-income and less healthy Americans.

“We support efforts to strengthen and stabilize our nation’s health care system and extend insurance coverage and protections,” said APA CEO Arthur C. Evans, Jr, PhD.  “However, the American Health Care Act is not the answer.  Accordingly, we call on the Senate to reject the bill due to its projected adverse impact on the well-being of our nation, particularly on individuals with mental health, behavioral and substance use disorders.”

“While the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is not perfect, any attempt to repeal and replace it should increase, not decrease, the number of Americans who have access to mental and behavioral health and substance use disorder services,” Evans added.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA's membership includes nearly 115,700 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives.

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