HHS: Medicaid expansion would boost behavioral healthcare access

By Annette M. Boyle

If the remaining states expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act, it could greatly expand Americans' access to behavioral healthcare, according to a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

HHS estimates that 1.9 million uninsured people have substance abuse or mental illness conditions that require treatment and would qualify for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, but live in states that have not expanded the program.

Individuals with behavioral health needs account for nearly 30 percent of the low-income uninsured population in these states, and studies show that low-income adults with serious mental illness are much more likely to receive appropriate care if they have Medicaid coverage, according to HHS.

"Today's report shows that Medicaid expansion is an important step states can take to address behavioral health needs, including serious mental illness and opioid and other substance use disorders," HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell in an announcement.

Expanding Medicaid eligibility has led to savings for states and increased revenue for health insurers. It also enables states to shift funds that now cover mental healthcare for the uninsured to other programs, according to the HHS report, as several states that expanded Medicaid reported expected decreases in state funding for behavioral health treatments between $7 million to $190 million in 2015.

If all states expanded Medicaid, an additional 4 million individuals overall would gain coverage, according to the White House. In the South, Medicaid expansion under the ACA would provide coverage for 61 percent of the uninsured.

To learn more:
- read the report
- here's the HHS announcement

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