Kids' Mental Health Care Costs Could Rise Under AHCA

The emotional and mental wellbeing of children is just as important as their physical wellbeing. One in five children between the ages of 13 and 18 have, or will have, a serious mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Because of this, it is important that parents find their children the necessary mental health care treatments to take care of them. But this can often be costly. While it might be a little unclear how much kids' mental health care will cost under Trumpcare, it is clear that Trumpcare (formally known as the American Health Care Act or AHCA) will drive up insurance premiums for some parents, making that care even more expensive or entirely unaffordable.

When House representatives made the decision to pass the American Health Care Act, they essentially voted in favor of making it harder for parents and their kids to obtain essential health benefits. If the AHCA manages to make it past the Senate in its current form as well, states would be able to obtain waivers which will exempt insurers from providing all guaranteed essential health benefits under Obamacare, including mental health care. Under Obamacare, all plans must cover behavioral treatment or counseling and mental health inpatient services.

Under Trumpcare, if an insurance policy doesn't guarantee mental health care, parents could be forced to pay out of pocket expenses for treatments and services — and that can get expensive, as studies have found that those with insurance don't seek out mental health treatment because of the cost.

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Trumpcare will also limit the federal spending on Medicaid for low-income families, according to ABC News, and end Medicaid expansion. This is bad news, as Medicaid is the single largest payer for mental health services in the United States. Medicaid currently provides coverage to 27 million children under the age of 18. Children could ultimately see their health care cut by tens of billions of dollars over the course of 10 years, according to the Children's Hospital Association. With a limit on federal spending for the program and lack of expansion, this means that kids' in some states, especially those who come from lower-income families, could find themselves paying more for the services.

Exact totals are a bit muddy at the moment. Yet, looking at previous studies can paint a clearer picture as to how much children's mental health care might cost: In 2006, mental health care for children between the ages of 0-17 cost families an average of $1,931, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. In 2011, the average expenditure for a child with a mental health disorder was $2,465, with the majority of funding coming from Medicaid, according to a survey done by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. In 2013, childhood mental health disorders cost society at large an estimated $247 billion a year in treatment, according to McClatchy.

In short, costs for kids' mental health care are growing and a potential passing of Trumpcare will only make these costs higher for families.