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Half a million people with low incomes unable to get mental health care in states that have not expanded Medicaid

Written by Diane Archer

In 1996, the Mental Health Parity Act was signed into law to guarantee that insurers did not restrict access to mental health care but rather imposed the same or higher annual or lifetime dollar caps on mental health benefits as on medical benefits. Unfortunately, a new study reveals that the 24 states that have not expanded Medicaid eligibility have left hundreds of thousands of people unable to get mental health care. More than half a million Americans with low incomes diagnosed with a serious mental condition struggled to get the mental health care they needed in 2014.

  • People with Medicaid. Medicaid covers a wide range of mental health care services. And, in the 26 states that expanded Medicaid eligibility as a result of the Affordable Care Act, an additional 350,000 people received mental health care.
  • People with Medicare: Medicare covers a wide range of mental health care services. If you’re enrolled in traditional Medicare, Medicare covers 80 percent of the cost of your care from a medical doctor or from another Medicare-certified mental health provider.
  • People with incomes under 138 percent of the federal poverty level ineligible for Medicaid. Today, 24 states have not expanded Medicaid eligibility to people with incomes up to $15,521, even though the federal government pays the full cost of their Medicaid coverage for the first three years. As a result, 569,000 Americans were unable to get mental health services. They were ineligible for Medicaid in their states and lacked the money to pay privately for care. Many of these people end up in jail or homeless at a significant cost to states and local taxpayers.

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