March 20, 2017

Response to Article on the American Health Care Act

The Washington Post published a letter on March 17, 2017, from APA 2017 President Antonio E. Puente, PhD, in response to its March 10, article “GOP health-care bill would drop addiction treatment mandate covering 1.3 million Americans.”

The bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act would likely harm many of the people who most need coverage [“GOP health plan would cut mandated drug treatment,” news, March 10], including the 11 million Americans with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level who currently have coverage for mental-health and substance-use disorders provided at parity with coverage for general medical services through Medicaid expansion. The American Health Care Act would remove the requirement that Medicaid benchmark plans provide essential health benefits, which include mental and behavioral health care and substance-use services. This may undo the much-needed protections offered by the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, a law for which the American Psychological Association advocated for more than a decade.

Other potential victims of this bill include low-income women and sexual and gender minorities, many of whom access health services primarily through family-planning clinics. In its current form, the bill would cut Medicaid funding to those providers.

Any health-care legislation considered by Congress should increase, not decrease, the number of Americans with access to affordable health care. We support efforts to strengthen and improve our nation’s health-care system and extend insurance coverage; thus, we oppose the legislation as introduced because of the adverse impact it would have on millions of Americans, particularly those with mental-health and substance-use disorders.

Antonio E. Puente, Washington

The writer is president of the American Psychological Association.