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Michael Butz

MICHAEL BÜTZ

Here in Montana the Affordable Care Act has enabled more than 60,000 Montanans, a number roughly equal to the entire population of Great Falls, to have decent health insurance coverage and making treatment available for mental health and substance use concerns. With the mounting behavioral health crisis, rolling back these benefits would cement our national lead in suicides per capita.

In the individual health insurance market nationally, an average of one in three citizens was not covered for substance use services, and almost one in five were not covered for mental health services. Altogether, an estimated 1.8 million Americans with mental health and substance use disorders are now getting treatment because of the Affordable Care Act. . In Montana, more than 46,000 low-income adults, many making as little as $10,000 or $15,000 a year, now have coverage under Medicaid with its expansion under the ACA.

The ACA also made it easier for people to buy insurance on the individual market, by providing premium subsidies and help with copayments and deductibles, and by setting basic “rules of the road” for coverage. For example, plans cannot deny coverage for pre-existing conditions and they have to cover behavioral health services (mental health and substance use services) on par with the way they cover other medical services. Consider this and consider what it would mean to lose those benefits.

Tinkering with this complex law impacts all of us, whether it’s a family member, a friend, a co-worker, a neighbor, or ourselves directly. If ACA is altogether repealed, and that takes us back to pre-Medicaid expansion, it would be as if the entire town of Billings suddenly went uninsured.

My national organization, the American Psychological Association, has taken the position that no health care reform legislation should be passed by Congress unless it would cover at least as many people, with decent, reliable health insurance — including behavioral healthcare services such as mental health and substance use treatment. This is my position, too.

Please make sure you know how repealing and replacing the ACA will impact you, your loved ones, and other Montanans. Then, act your conscience and contact your legislators to ask them to take action on your part.

Michael R. Bütz, Ph.D.,of Billings is federal advocacy chair for the Montana Psychological Association.

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