healthHealth and Medicine

Mental Health Support Will Disappear Under The GOP Healthcare Act


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

House Speaker Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump are aiming to "repeal and replace Obamacare," but the replacement part may be a lot harder than they've imagined. Zach Gibson/Getty Images

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Obama’s landmark healthcare bill, is going to be torn up by the GOP and replaced with the “American Healthcare Reform Act of 2017” – something that has been met with a chorus of disapproval from both Democrats and Republicans, and medical professionals.

Despite the problem with rising premium costs, “Obamacare” meant that over 20 million Americans received health care – and plenty of them had their lives saved by the legislature. The GOP kingpins are making it seem like replacing it with their own version will be easy, but a quick look at history reveals that this is wishful thinking of the highest order.


At a glance, the new bill amounts to a $600 billion tax cut for the top 0.1 percent, while being “Obamacare-lite” in terms of its ability to provide health coverage for most Americans. It’s worth highlighting that, apart from the fact that tens of millions will instantly lose coverage, there’s some deeply upsetting news for those suffering from mental health issues.

The ACA expanded Medicaid, the social health care program for those with limited economic resources, in order to make sure a health issue wouldn’t disrupt their lives.

The new bill, HR 277, will roll back this expansion by 2020, which means – among other things – that almost 8 million people who use Medicaid to get support for mental health issues, and the 10.4 million that get help for their substance abuse, will no longer have it.


Don’t take our word for it – you can read the bill yourself, or, if you support the repeal of the ACA, take a peek at a statement released by four GOP Senators.


Writing to House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) explain that they are “concerned that any poorly implemented or poorly timed change in the current funding structure in Medicaid could result in a reduction in access to life-saving health care services.”

“We believe Medicaid needs to be reformed,” they write, “but reform should not come at the cost of disruption in access to health care for our country’s most vulnerable and sickest individuals.”

The Senators go on to say that they fully support the repeal of ACA, but there needs to be a “gradual transition” from one plan to the next to ensure that people relying on such programs are supported throughout.

“The Affordable Care Act is not working for states or the federal government and must be repealed and replaced with a plan that reforms Medicaid and protects individuals and their families over the long term,” they add.


“However, the February 10 draft proposal from the House does not meet the test of stability for individuals currently enrolled in the program and we will not support a plan that does not include stability for Medicaid expansion populations.”

That last paragraph’s importance cannot be understated. Currently, the GOP have a slim majority of 52 in the Senate, which means they can certainly repeal the ACA – but only if they have pretty much everyone on board. If these four dissenting Senators withdraw their support – and they aren’t alone in their protestations – then ACA won’t be repealed.

Additionally, in order to vote to enact a new bill, the GOP need a “supermajority” of 60 senators to vote for it, something they currently don’t, and won’t, have.


So as it stands, all these people relying on mental health programs may or may not have coverage within a few months depending on what wary GOP lawmakers decide to do. If they do lose their coverage, there’s no mechanism available for them to quickly replace their coverage with a new bill.


A recent study suggested that as many as 83 percent of people will suffer from a mental health issue at some point during their lives. HR 1275, as it stands, will doom millions to deal with these problems themselves, and that’s nothing short of unacceptable.


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