What does the GOP Health Care plan mean for California Mental Health Consumers?

Last week, House Republicans announced their plan for replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), colloquially known as Obamacare. While maintaining some of the most popular features of Obamacare, such as the provision that enables young Americans to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26, the new plan has drawn the ire of Republicans and Democrats alike.

Many conservative Republican lawmakers feel that the proposal is too similar to the legislation it is trying to replace, since both plans depend on providing tax credits to health insurance consumers.

While the ACA provides tax credits adjusted for the relative cost of living and income, the new proposal offers health insurance tax credits at a flat rate based on the age of the purchaser – a provision that will disproportionately favor young Americans with high incomes who live in places where insurance costs are below average.

Republican Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) criticized the plan as too narrow a departure from the existing law, labeling the proposal “Obamacare light.”

On the other end of the political spectrum, liberal Democrats contend that the GOP plan would reduce health insurance coverage for vulnerable Americans, including low income families and the elderly.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) characterized the bill as “breathtakingly irresponsible.”

Besides disposing of the ACA’s individual mandate, the new law would no longer require large employers to provide health insurance to their employees. According to an analysis by the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center, this part of the ACA did not negatively impact employer-sponsored insurance coverage rates.

For Mental Health Consumers in California, the GOP health care plan would bring certain changes to insurance costs and coverage, particularly for Californians who get Obamacare coverage under Medi-Cal.

Here are two of the most prominent changes for California Mental Health Consumers:

1. Reduced federal Medicaid funding that threatens California residents who receive insurance through Medi-Cal. The state currently receives $15 billion in federal Medi-Cal aid – an increase that saw four million Californians gain health coverage through the ACA. Six percent or $2.1 billion of Medi-Cal’s expenditure goes to mental health services. The new plan shifts these costs from the federal to the state government – a change California most likely cannot afford.

2. Capped subsidies for consumers who purchase individual insurance through regulated marketplaces like Covered California. The cap is now $4,000, whereas under Obamacare, consumers sometimes received individual policy subsidies valued at over $10,000. Under the current law, Covered California requires all plans on the marketplace to include a package of essential services, including mental health and behavioral health services. Yet, under the new proposal, there is no such requirement. This means that many Californians could lose their insured access to mental health and substance abuse services, among other types of essential health care benefits.