Last updated on: 10/24/2012 | Author:

Does Obamacare Require Insurers to Offer Coverage for Treatment of Mental Illness? – YES

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Section 1302, page 45, “Essential Health Benefits Requirements,” signed into law on Mar. 23, 2010, available at the Library of Congress website, states:


(1) IN GENERAL.—Subject to paragraph (2), the Secretary shall define the essential health benefits, except that such benefits shall include at least the following general categories and the items and services covered within the categories…

(E) Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment.”

Mar. 23, 2010 - Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (HR 3590)

PRO (yes)


Richard A. Friedman, MD, Professor of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, wrote in his July 9, 2012 article “Good News for Mental Illness in Health Law,” available at the New York Times website:

“Americans with mental illness had good reason to celebrate when the Supreme Court upheld President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The law promises to give them something they have never had before: near-universal health insurance, not just for their medical problems but for psychiatric disorders as well…

One of the health care act’s pillars is to forbid the exclusion of people with pre-existing illness from medical coverage. By definition, a vast majority of adult Americans with a mental illness have a pre-existing disorder… These people have specifically been denied medical coverage by most commercial insurance companies — until now…

The Affordable Care Act treats psychiatric illness like any other and removes obstacles to fair and rational treatment.”


Amanda K. Sarata, Specialist in Health Policy at the Congressional Research Service (CRS), stated in her Dec. 28, 2011 report “Mental Health Parity and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010,” available at

“The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as modified by P.L. 111-152, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010) contains a number of provisions that generally combine to extend the reach of existing federal mental health parity requirements. Prior to 1996, health insurance coverage for mental illness had historically been less generous than that for other physical illnesses. Mental health parity is a response to this disparity in insurance coverage, and generally refers to the concept that health insurance coverage for mental health services should be offered on par with covered medical and surgical benefits…

PPACA expands the reach of federal mental health parity requirements to three main types of health plans: qualified health plans as established by the ACA; Medicaid non-managed care benchmark and benchmark-equivalent plans; and plans offered through the individual market.”

CON (no)


[Editor’s Note: Based upon a neutral reading of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and bi-partisan third party analysis, this question seems to have a clear and obvious Pro (yes) answer, and has therefore presented the responses in a single column with no opposing perspective.]