The View From Your Obamacare: Mental Health

A few readers coalesce around a new theme:

My husband and I are both self-employed and work from home, and for the first time, our entire family has health insurance – thanks to Obamacare. My husband was uninsured for years, because he just couldn’t get health President Obama Visits Boston To Talk About Health Careinsurance that wasn’t exorbitant. In 2012, he tried to get health insurance from three different health insurance companies and got turned down from each one for minor health issues. The reason for his last rejection was – I kid you not – “impending fatherhood.” When a health insurance company declared that my pregnancy (which was covered under my insurance) somehow became a pre-existing condition for him, we gave up on the whole Kafka-esque scenario and just waited for 2014.

But I mostly want to highlight another Obamacare benefit that hasn’t been mentioned much: mental health coverage. I have PTSD, which my pre-Obamacare policy didn’t cover. As a result, I could get 10 group or individual therapy sessions per calendar year, and I could see a shrink once every two months for ten minutes for medication management, and that was it. I could never switch policies because no one else would cover me. (Put PTSD on a health insurance application and they couldn’t write the denial letter fast enough.)

I spent $18,000 out of pocket to treat my PTSD (and four years after completing therapy, I’m STILL paying off the resulting credit card debt.) EMDR was worth every damn penny, because while I still have some remaining symptoms, I can actually sleep through the night, I don’t have to manage multiple flashbacks a day, and I’m not crawling out of my skin with anxiety twice a day. I’m grateful that my therapist offered a no-interest payment plan and that I had the resource of a high credit limit, but not having health coverage for my PTSD treatment was a huge financial hit at a time when I was already struggling to get by.

Like a lot of people with a mental illness, I don’t broadcast my PTSD diagnosis – mostly because I don’t necessarily want to discuss my abusive childhood in public. But access to mental health treatment is a big deal for a lot of people like me, and I’m grateful that I have options now that I didn’t have before.

Another also touches on mental illness:

I love this thread, and I thought I’d chime in because the policy has meant a lot to me and my family. My mom is very well employed and well insured. However, prior to Obamacare her coverage only covered her 7 children if they were under 18 or in school full time and under 25. This was without a doubt a luxury plan in comparison to the vast majority of Americans.

Cue disaster 1. My brother had to drop out of college after a suicide attempt and diagnosis of bipolar disorder. He was in inpatient care for weeks, and then seeing multiple doctors to find the right treatment plan to manage the illness. For years.

Now, again, my family was in a relatively secure position prior to this. But the fact that the Obamacare clause for children 26 and under came into effect just six months before this disaster means that my mother didn’t have to make a choice between bankruptcy or leaving one of her children to homelessness or death. Because that’s what the options were pre-Obamacare. And I’d like to point out that no matter how well you raise your kids, no matter how much money you have or how hard you work, you can’t prevent bipolar disorder. You don’t get a choice as an individual to have a mental illness (or cancer, or asthma, or allergies …). How can anyone want to go back to a world where your financial security depends on the luck of the genetic draw?

Once that had (mostly) settled down, we hit disaster 2. My other brother graduated from college, unemployed, and came home to work. He was working three jobs to make ends meet when he got in a motorcycle crash that left him inches from death. He was in the hospital for the better part of a day before they were even able to identify my mother and call her. He woke up two days later and but for the grace of god was not just alive but didn’t lose any brain damage. He spent weeks in inpatient rehab, several more in outpatient rehab, and a year later had the final surgery to fix his hip.

To be clear, my brother was working three jobs and none of them offered insurance. He is the epitome of a the “hard working American.” And once again, if it weren’t for Obamacare, he would have spent decades of his life trying to come back from financial ruin. Or my family would have gone bankrupt.

If there’s anything I learned from my family’s story, it’s the crushing economic impact of not having health insurance. Without that one clause, my family would have gone from gone from solidly upper middle class to near-poverty in a single generation. We would have gone from drivers of the economy – spending money on restaurants, vacations, college, homes – to the paycheck to paycheck existence that too many Americans endure. I am aware of just how lucky we are, and I wish other people who think Obamacare is only the rich subsidizing the lazy poor would realize just how much security and wellbeing Obamacare has brought all Americans.

Read the whole thread here.

(Photo by Yoon S. Byun/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)