Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA18) has been one of the most important advocates for mental health and addiction care in this country. He’s been a champion of parity between the treatment of physical and mental health problems. And that’s why it’s so surprising that he might vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. 24 million people nationwide — 1.3 million in Pennsylvania, and 67,000 in his district — will lose health insurance as a result of this legislation and many of them, by some estimates 29%, suffer from mental illness including substance abuse disorders.
And what is even more striking is that the MacArthur amendment to the Republican health care plan allows states to opt-out of the Essential Benefits Requirement that guarantees insurance must provide mental health benefits. Repealing that provision, and the prohibition on insurance companies charging higher premiums to those with pre-existing conditions, could lead to disaster in Pennsylvania. Republican majorities in the General Assembly are likely to vote for Pennsylvania to opt-out of both requirements, and if they have a veto-proof majority or a Republican governor who agrees with them, hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians between the ages of 50 and 65 will see their premiums skyrocket and the ACA’s protection of mental health parity will be defunct in our state.
Let’s hope Representative Murphy listens to the better angels of his nature and stands with the people he has championed for so long.