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O ve r the last few years, the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare , has received harsh criticism from the right. Candidate after candidate has called for its repeal, and the House of Representatives has voted to repeal or change the law more than 50 times . The ACA has many great elements, but one thing in particular makes it a crucial law to uphold: its support of mental health care.

Until 2008, mental health counseling was regarded nationally almost as a luxury. Under several private insurance plans, a patient could only go to two to three free consults before having to deal with large copays, making continued therapy often too large of a financial burden. This would be like covering only the beginning of cancer treatment, then letting the patient pay for the rest.

In 2008, Congress passed the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act , which assured that limitations on mental health services would be no stricter than those imposed on other medical and surgical benefits . Legislatively, this was a good start, but by no means did it ensure that mental health counseling would be universally accessible.

The ACA created the biggest improvement in the quality of coverage by listing mental health as one of the 10 essential benefits required in the insurance policies sold on the federal exchange, as well as to patients on Medicaid . states that the ACA “expands mental health and substance use disorder benefits and parity protections for 62 million Americans,” which is achieved through several changes in insurance policy requirements.

First, according to the American Mental Health Counselors Association , three-quarters of mental health conditions develop before the age of 24 , and under the ACA people can stay on their parents’ health care policies until the age of 26, which ultimately allows patients a maximum amount of benefits with virtually no cost until the age of 26.

Second, health plans must provide free preventative care such as depression screening for adults and behavioral assessments for children.

Finally, under the pre-existing conditions clause, plans will not be able to deny mental health coverage due to pre-existing conditions such as schizophrenia.

The ACA provided much-needed improvements to the mental health care system in the United States, but issues remain. Twenty-three states have chosen not to expand Medicaid, denying many of these new mental health resources to Medicaid users.

According to Joel Miller, executive director of the American Mental Health Counselors Association , without Medicaid expansion, “nearly 4 million uninsured people with mental health conditions will be locked out of the health insurance system, and therefore lack access to timely, quality mental health services and a consistent source of care.

Right now, as we grapple with yet another tragedy on our own campus, any effort to help those suffering with mental health issues should be praised and bolstered, not condemned. When even the care that Counseling and Psychological Services provides — from one-on-one counseling to group therapy sessions — is not always enough for a student struggling with mental health issues, how can we begin to think about repealing a law that works to make this type of care affordable for all Americans?

It’s time to realize that the ACA works and that it helps this country in a myriad of ways, not the least of which is how it works to help those facing mental health issues. And until Medicaid is expanded to all 50 states, we deny the poorest among us the care they need, and that is simply unacceptable. Pennsylvania finally agreed to Medicaid expansion , but it’s crucial that everyone voting out-of-state check to see if his or her state has done so.

There is no way to reconcile the tragedies that our campus has faced over the last year. However, we must do our part in trying to make services available that could help struggling students or even prevent future suicides.

Mental health coverage and affordable healthcare are basic human rights, and we urge you to support candidates who will fight for these important causes.

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