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Message from Lynn Keltz, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers' Association

PMHCA and partners were pleased to provide Health Insurance Navigation services for five years through the PMHCA Consortium. We deeply regret that we have come to the end of our time as Health Insurance Navigators funded by the US Department of Human Services/Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Five years ago, we were excited to be able to help people obtain quality health insurance coverage that had not previously been available to them. Individuals with mental health needs and the challenges of drug and alcohol addiction frequently were not able to get their health care needs met through employer or individual insurance plans. But with the Quality Health Plans available through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Health Insurance Marketplace, this changed. Pre-existing conditions no longer disqualified people from getting health insurance. There was parity in all of the insurance plans between physical and behavioral health care.

PMHCA formed a consortium of organizations with the Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania, Mental Health America of SouthWestern PA and the Advocacy Alliance to take on the exciting task of educating people about the ACA, provide outreach specifically to consumers of behavioral health care, and to the general population, and to help people enroll in ACA and Medicaid Expansion insurance plans.

Since that exciting time, a lot has changed. The ACA has weathered some political storms and in Pennsylvania, the costs of buying insurance through the Marketplace have stabilized. However, the opportunities we had to help people access quality healthcare with parity are diminishing. Last year and this year the federal administration drastically cut funds available to navigator organizations, causing us to downsize our consortium and lay off navigators.

For fiscal year 2018-2019, which began September 13, 2018, the CMS funding proposal required that all grant applicants agree to educate consumers about short term health plans that, for the most part, do NOT cover pre-existing conditions and do NOT have parity. We could not compromise our long held values and enter into an agreement to do take actions that would do so. We want parity and coverage of all health needs to continue. We want people to have choices in how they take care of health needs. Promotion of short term health plans is likely to undercut the progress made by the ACA. We chose not to participate in that activity.

PMHCA will make every effort to help people find the resources they need to enroll in health insurance but we will no longer have funding to be Health Insurance Navigators. Thank you all for the support you give us in our efforts to promote recovery oriented mental health services and specifically for supporting the health insurance navigators.

We look forward to a better day when health insurance is available for all people, regardless of pre-existing conditions, parity is part of all health insurance, and adequate funding is again available to help people access quality healthcare.

Lynn Keltz, Executive Director
Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers' Association