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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

States Fail Medicaid Expansion Mental Health Coverage

Nearly 4 million Americans who suffer from mental illness lack insurance coverage as the result of a number of states failing to expand their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act, according to USA Today. States that chose to refuse the Affordable Care Act left about 3.7 million Americans without coverage, people who need treatment for their mental illness or substance use disorder.

Under the Affordable Care Act states were required to expand Medicaid benefits, but in 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court gave states the ability to opt out.

In the twenty-four states that failed to expand their Medicaid programs, there are about 3 million people who were formerly uninsurable due to their mental health or substance use disorders, known as pre-existing conditions. Despite the Affordable Care Act making it illegal for insurers to refuse coverage because of pre-existing conditions, citizens in the states that failed to expand were left without any options, according to the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) report.

“It is really a tragedy,” said Joel Miller, Executive Director of AMHCA. “When uninsured people with mental health conditions, such as depression, gain Medicaid coverage, they become healthier and life expectancy increases, but in states that refuse to expand Medicaid, citizens will see their hopes dashed for a better life and better health.”

The AMHCA’s findings come from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. People with serious behavioral health conditions were tallied; the results showed that almost 75 percent (2.7 million adults) of uninsured people who lacked coverage live in 11 southern states that rejected the Medicaid expansion. What’s more, over 1.1 million uninsured people with mental health conditions reside in just two states — Texas (625,000) and Florida (535,000). Sadly, this group of 1.1 million people is eligible for insurance under the Medicaid expansion program, but they are unable to receive it in the state they live.

The 11 southern states are:
  • Alabama
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia
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