When I first came on as the editor in chief of Behavioral Healthcare and its sister publication, Addiction Professional, a few weeks ago, I was concerned that immersing myself in an industry that faces addiction, suicide and trauma on a daily basis would be a real downer. I wondered how personally upset I would be by the stories of real patients and their life-altering anguish.
I’ve been a healthcare business writer and editor for a dozen years, but behavioral health is a new focus for me. There’s a distinct difference between tracking Medicare spending, for example, and watching a drug-court judge sentence a 23 year-old young man to six months in jail after his second heroin overdose. Deep down, I was wondering how fervently I’d have to steel my nerves to work among the leaders in this industry.
Instead, the behavioral specialty has provided me with the privilege of meeting the most hopeful, resilient, positive healthcare professionals I’ve ever spoken to. So many of you—longtime readers of Behavioral Healthcare—are thought leaders and optimistic advocates within your communities.
Of course, positive thinking is not enough. Each of you also has a business to run. You have the formidable task of balancing the emotional aspects of behavioral healthcare with the realities of the bottom line. Sustainability is especially critical now with all the chaos that's been caused by the Affordable Care Act, leaving you with more challenges than ever before. One of the big ones will be answering the question of who pays for the services you provide.
For example, you’ve probably seen some of the 10 million brand-new Medicaid enrollees knocking on your door this year. If you don’t accept Medicaid now, you might want to consider it in the future. Yes, the administrative burden of accepting Medicaid patients can be daunting, but it’s clearly a growth area. And you want growth, right?
Not to mention, there are 25 states that have not opted for Medicaid expansion just yet but remain under intense political pressure to do so. I predict at least half of the opt-out states will succumb to the pressure and expand their Medicaid populations by 2017. As a result, the Medicaid floodgates could open all the more, possibly doubling the number of people who not only need your services, but suddenly will have the benefit packages to cover them. It could be exactly the growth you're looking for.