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09/04/12
By Jason Sadora, Western Regional Liaison
University of Nevada, Las Vegas and Liberty University

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), which President Barack Obama signed into law on March 23, 2010, affects the mental health profession in several ways. 

The PPACA requires all clients to have health insurance. If everyone has insurance, less money will be generated by visitation. However, more people, including the younger population, will be able to seek counseling because at least a portion of it will be covered by their insurance. 
And because everyone has insurance, there will be more freedom to apply different modalities. 

Unfortunately, this may lead to more paperwork for counselors, manpower issues (more clients than available counselors), and possibly an increased rate of misdiagnosis caused by diminished counselor competency. 

The PPACA also decreases pharmaceutical prices, making medicine more affordable. However, if psychopharmacological drugs are more affordable at the same time that more clients are being misdiagnosed, then more clients will have more problems. More clients being prescribed more medicine for mental health problems will exacerbate the current drug epidemic in the United States. 

Since clients can be expected to have more problems, it is extremely important for mental health counselors to obtain clients’ history. Fortunately, sharing clients’ information will be easier under the new healthcare act. 

The PPACA encourages education of the general public on healthcare. A higher level of health awareness among the public will make assessments easier to conduct—and faster, too. Although the PPACA will emphasize training and research, there will be fewer educated mental health professionals due to capitation. Capitation, an annual set fee that will be paid to the mental health professional, will make loans more difficult to pay off. Also, the government will determine how counselors should treat clients based on what it considers medically necessary. 

The PPACA will have positive and negative attributes. The final verdict on whether the law is good or bad will be determined by whether you are concerned with care or cost. 

Implementation of the PPACA has already begun, with some provisions taking effect in 
2010. For more information visit http://www.healthcare.gov. 

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