Opening Mental Health Care To More Individuals
By the end of 2011, there were 11.7 million individuals receiving Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. Out of those, there were “more than 1.4 million Americans on the federal disability rolls for mood disorders.” Historically, people have been reluctant to seek help due to the societal stigma surrounding mental illness. As science and medicine have expanded our knowledge of the brain, though, this old idea has been proven to be false. Now with the expansion of health insurance through Obamacare, there are concerns about out of control increases in mental health care. Economic Costs of Mental Illness Mental illness is treated through drugs, therapy, hospitalizations and other medical applications that total about $150 billion per year. Beyond these direct medical costs, there are other economic costs as well. According to a 2008 study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry “people with serious mental illness earn, on average, $16,000 less than their mentally well counterparts, totaling about $193 billion annually in lost earning.” Those with mental illness have higher rates of absenteeism and tend to be less productive when they are at work. These problems tend to reduce an individual's earnings. With low productivity and high absenteeism, individuals who are mentally ill can easily lose their jobs and wind up relying on “public safety-net services like food stamps and subsidized housing.” Cost Controls Policy makers are trying to come up with ideas to keep costs from skyrocketing when Obamacare fully goes into effect. But experts are suggesting that in order to save money in the long run, there should be a greater expenditure to treat individuals up front. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a study in 2007 that put depressed employees into one of two groups during a randomized controlled trial. “Some of them received telephone outreach, care management and optional psychotherapy, while others received their usual care. The employees in the ‘enhanced care' group not only worked longer weeks than those in the other group, but also demonstrated greater job retention.” This “enhanced care” translated into, on average, an additional $1,800 annual value per worker to the company. Even with positive findings from studies like the JAMA study, spending additional funds is not a popular political move. There is also the traditional stigma regarding mental illness that appears to prevent individuals from seeking help. “Even though tens of millions of people will get more coverage, estimates suggest that only 1.15 million new users will take advantage of mental-health services.” For those taking advantage of expanded mental health coverage, they may not get the right type of treatment for their problems. The economics reporter for the New York Times is promoting comparative-effectiveness research to address this dilemma. Comparative-effectiveness means “pitting health care options head to head to see which works best for which patients and under what circumstances.” This approach poses two problems: 1) it is highly expensive and, 2) Americans object to “government telling doctors and patients what to do.” Even without this proposed research, the expansion will allow many more individuals to seek help for their mental health issues outside of and within SSD. If you are seeking SSD benefits, contact our experienced attorney to assist you with the application process.