Healthcare repeal criticized as blow to mental-health coverage

Repealing the Democrats' healthcare reform law would take away "ground-breaking steps" to expand access to care and prevention of mental illness and substance abuse," the nonprofit group Mental Health America said in a statement Wednesday.

Mental health has taken on added political significance since Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and 18 others were shot on Jan. 8. The suspect in the case, Jared Lee Loughner, is widely believed to suffer from a mental illness.

Mental Health America praised the law, which requires individual plans sold through state health insurance exchanges to cover mental healthcare starting in 2014 and gets millions of uninsured Americans into the Medicaid program. The law also requires plans to allow young people up to the age of 26 to stay on their parents' family plans and provides additional funding for school-based health clinics.

"These provisions are critical in light of the fact that half of all people with a mental health diagnosis first experience it by age 14, but will not receive treatment until many years later, if at all," Mental Health America President and CEO David Shern said in the statement. "It also places a high priority on prevention by covering preventive services and programs to support community-based prevention activities."