After being drafted and discussed behind closed doors for weeks, the Senate bill — called the Better Care Reconciliation Act — was finally unveiled on Thursday. While there are a lot of concerning factors regarding the GOP’s latest plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, one of the most troubling and deepest cuts is access to mental health services. With maternity care and childbirth coverage already on the chopping block, new moms might also be wondering about how the BRCA will affect those with postpartum depression — something that up to one in seven women experience following their baby’s birth.
Physically, giving birth to a child does a lot to a woman’s body. But childbirth can also trigger a “jumble of powerful emotions” that can result in depression, according to the Mayo Clinic. While some new moms overcome their “postpartum baby blues” in about two weeks after delivery, others can experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression, or PPD, that typically comes with mood swings, crying spells, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping.
According to the Mayo Clinic, PPD is often treated with a combination of psychotherapy and antidepressants — much like how doctors would treat any other case of depression or anxiety. But, with the new Senate bill heavily cutting back on federal funding, these changes could have a major impact on mental health services in the country, including access to treatment for new moms with PPD.
The new bill wants to cut almost a trillion dollars from Medicaid over a decade and let states opt out of out requirements its insurance companies must cover, such as Obamacare’s essential health benefits mandate, which includes mental health treatment as well as maternity care.
While these amendments to Obamacare — also known as the Affordable Care Act — will affect all aspects of health coverage, Medicaid is the single largest payer of mental health services in the United States, as HuffPost reported.
And low-income mothers are at a much greater risk of experiencing some form of depression than others. In fact, in the United States, between 40 and 60 percent of low-income women have reported depressive symptoms after childbirth while 55 percent of all infants living in poverty are being raised by mothers with some form of depression, according to an analysis from the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services.
Without treatment, the same Medicaid analysis noted that children of these mothers could have "long-term physical and behavioral health consequences" — something that emphasizes the importance of affordable mental health services.
Aside from cutting Medicaid funding, by allowing insurance companies — in states that apply for a waiver — to exclude certain benefits, like mental health, from their coverage, policy prices could skyrocket. According to a report the Center for American Progress, which was published days before the new bill was unveiled, treatment would cost thousands more, with depression costing an extra $8,490.
About 90 percent of women with PPD are successfully treated with medication and/or therapy. But with legislation like the Senate's bill in the works, millions of people could be without coverage that could provide them with the help they need for mental health care.