Durbin Hears from Addiction and Mental Health Providers on Impact of Repealing the ACA

CHICAGO – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today met with addiction and mental health providers and advocates to discuss Republican plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the impact it would have on mental health and substance abuse treatment. This month, Republican leaders took the first step in repealing the law by approving a budget that allows for major provisions of the ACA to be eliminated by simple majority vote. On his first day in office, President Trump signed an executive order giving federal agencies broad authority to undo regulations created by the ACA.

“When the ACA was passed in 2010, it addressed some of the most glaring gaps in our health care system – including recognizing that behavioral health should be taken as seriously as physical health. The ACA has allowed millions of people to gain access to mental health and addiction treatment, and required insurers to provide equal coverage for these services,” Durbin said. “Congressional Republicans’ plans to repeal the ACA without a replacement is irresponsible and dangerous – especially for the millions of young adults with depression or anxiety who can stay on their parents insurance until age 26, and those suffering from opioid addiction whose treatments are now covered. I will fight to protect the gains we have made under the ACA, and continue to support our most vulnerable populations and the providers that serve them.”


Congressional Republicans have said they will repeal and dismantle the Affordable Care Act through a procedural move called “reconciliation.” In the Senate, this allows Republicans to repeal the law with a simple majority vote, versus the normal 60 vote margin usually necessary to pass legislation. This month, every House Republican in Illinois voted in favor of repealing the law.

The ACA made mental health and substance use disorder care an essential benefit for all individual market plans. It provided protections for the 5.5 million Illinoisans who have pre-existing conditions and the 6 million Illinoisans who now enjoy free preventive screenings. The law has also allowed 90,000 young adults in Illinois to stay on their parents insurance until 26 – often when addiction and mental illness symptoms first become apparent.


Because of the ACA, Medicaid expanded to 650,000 low-income adults in Illinois, nearly one-third of whom have a mental health or substance abuse disorder.  Individuals with mental illness and substance use disorders are the greatest beneficiaries of Medicaid expansion – comprising 29% of those newly covered.  Without Medicaid, these individuals would be more likely to end up in emergency rooms or being arrested – driving up costs for state and local budgets.


Nationally, more than 20 million people have gained health insurance because of the ACA. In 2015, the uninsured rate fell below 10 percent for the first time in our nation’s history. Repealing the ACA will threaten health care for all Americans, drive up costs, and let insurance companies place arbitrary limits on benefits and deny coverage for pre-existing conditions or gender.