On Tuesday a new program—part of The Affordable Care Act– was announced by Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Close to $10 million has now been allocated for mental health and human services—especially in rural areas. The Mental and Behavioral Health Education and Training grant program will fund $9.8 million in grants to eligible higher education schools of psychology and social work and accredited psychology internship programs. This will be set aside to recruit students and bolster support for clinical training in mental and behavioral health. The hope is that this funding will increase the number of mental health providers to eventually help military personnel, veterans and families—especially as more and more soldiers return home. Sebelius stated, “Mental health services are critical for those dealing with post-traumatic stress and other severe problems.” The Health and Human Services Secretary addressed the urgent need saying, “care for these individuals is a major step forward in addressing these challenges.” This new aspect of the Affordable Care Act will certainly add to the controversy as we approach the October 3rd Presidential debate.
Critics of healthcare reform maintain their position that Obama continues to allocate funds for programs we cannot afford. These programs may be winning praise and thanks from those who need them, but they are inciting jeers from Republicans who insist that when you crunch the numbers, these allocated monies cannot be sustained. Where will the money come from to pay for this? Opponents content these programs will end up being paid for by hard working tax payers or funds printed by the Fed – which will ultimately drive down the value of the dollar. Romney has gone on the record with some harsh words about The Affordable Care Act. The would-be President cuts straight to the chase calling it a “costly disaster.” The new $10 million allocated for mental healthcare funding will likely be more fodder for Romney to use in his criticism of the Act.
Proponents of healthcare reform and the Affordable Care Act point to the fact that Obama will save billions in ending the war in Iraq and soon end the conflict in Afghanistan—thus the cost of assuring Americans have adequate mental health coverage is justified. Furthermore, proponents of Obama say that he has kept almost all of his promises. They point to the fact that he enacted and passed the healthcare bill—the first President to make such dramatic healthcare changes in four decades. He supports Gay rights and marriage, he came through on his vow to bring Osama bin Laden to justice, and he will likely come through on his vow to get the nation back to a decent economy, Obama supporters insist. Thus, the reasoning goes, why should we distrust his health care plans?
Critics point to a 10-11 % unemployment rate and already drained physicians who will be forced to treat a huge influx of new patients. Also, concerning Physician well-being, where is the money coming from to pay for expanded mental health coverage? Will doctors be forced to accept less money for their services because a broke US government is footing the bill? There can be no free lunch, opponents of the Affordable Care Act insist.
What do you think? Can we sustain the Affordable Care Act, with so much money going out to pay for it? Should mental health be a consideration under the Affordable Care Act? If so, how should we pay for it? Higher taxes on corporations? Higher taxes on the 1 %? Higher income taxes for all? By requiring doctors to accept less for their services? Or is the answer none of the above, and universal or wider healthcare coverage is simply a luxury we cannot afford?