Gained support for advancement of psychology workforce, services and research in health care reform

APA and the APA Practice Organization capitalized on opportunities available through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to bring about new grant sources and enforcement requirements that benefit psychology and mental health patients.

Two years after enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), APA and APAPO federal advocacy efforts continue to reap dividends for APA’s health care reform priority areas involving workforce, services and research.

APA advocacy helped bring about the new ACA Mental and Behavioral Health Education and Training Grant program that provides major funding to build the psychology workforce. The federal Health Resources and Services Administration announced the program in May, and by September, 11 APA-accredited psychology programs, including internships, were awarded three-year grants for a total of more than $3.6 million. These grants are intended to increase the number of psychologists who work with underserved populations, including those in rural areas, as well as veterans, military personnel and their families.

APAPO supported Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s decision to issue guidance to the states regarding HHS enforcement of the new ACA essential health benefits and mental health parity requirements for health insurance exchanges. ACA requires that mental health, substance use and behavioral health services be offered in essential health benefits packages and at parity with physical health services. This is a major expansion of the parity law since it will extend coverage to small group (under 50) and individual markets in the health insurance exchanges. 

In June, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, which was created by the ACA with APA’s support, announced the approval of 50 research funding awards, totaling $30 million over two years, through its Pilot Projects Program. This program addresses a broad range of questions about methods for engaging patients in the health research and dissemination process. Five of the primary investigators to receive funding are psychologists with grant proposals focused on methodological issues in neurorehabilitation, substance use treatment, child and parent health outcomes, complex pain and patient-centered care. Mental health was second to chronic conditions among the most highly represented categories for funding.