Over a Million Mentally Ill People Denied Access to Affordable Care in Non-Medicaid Expansion States


ALEXANDRIA, Va., April 6, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new groundbreaking study from the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) shows that nearly 570,000 people diagnosed with a serious mental health condition, would have received affordable, needed treatments, but were denied access to services because several states refused to participate in the new Medicaid Expansion Program. The federal government would have paid 100 percent of the treatment costs; the monies were already included in the federal budget. The comprehensive study also highlights that 458,000 fewer people would have avoided a depressive disorder mainly by securing health insurance through the Medicaid Expansion Program.

American Mental Health Counselors Association

The study, entitled "Access Denied: Non-Medicaid Expansion States Blocked Uninsured People with Serious Mental Illness from Receiving Affordable, Needed Treatments" shows that on a state-by-state basis, thousands of uninsured people who had been diagnosed with a serious mental health condition on January 1, 2014, and residing in the 24 states that did not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, were denied affordable, needed care throughout the year.

Many of the eligible individuals in the 24 non-Medicaid Expansion states had severe mental health conditions and did not have any health insurance coverage through public or private health plans.  But they were denied the opportunity to obtain affordable coverage and treatments in those states due to ideological differences with the Obama Administration.

The 26 states (and DC) that did participate in the expansion in 2014 helped 351,000 people with mental illness obtain affordable, needed services, and another 348,000 people did not develop a depressive disorder due to securing health insurance coverage.

"If several states continue to opt out of the new Medicaid Expansion Program, thousands of state residents with a mental illness will see their hopes of a healthier and better life denied since they cannot obtain affordable health insurance and needed treatments due to political ideology. That is a very high price that seriously ill and vulnerable people have to pay for political differences," said Dr. Steve Giunta, President of AMHCA.

"The burden of mental illness in the U.S. is incredibly high due to increasing numbers of uninsured people with mental health conditions. The lack of health insurance coverage keeps people with mental illness from obtaining needed services, treatments, and follow-up care.  Timely, continuous treatments lead to achieving long-term recovery and improves their quality of life, and saves money in the long run," Dr. Giunta noted.

"Health insurance is the passkey to timely, quality and consistent health care services, and state policy makers are locking people with mental illness out of the system in several states," said Joel E. Miller, Executive Director and CEO of AMHCA.

"Untreated mental illness, or conditions that would have been prevented, lead to more emergency department visits, hospitalizations, school failure, incarcerations and suicides and increase overall health care costs. The proof is in the pudding: states that expanded Medicaid in 2014 helped thousands of previously uninsured people with a mental illness receive affordable, needed treatments," Miller said.

"States expanding Medicaid will have enhanced capacity to meet the needs of millions of previously uninsured people with mental illness. Those states that do expand Medicaid will see an influx of new federal monies to shore up their mental health systems," said James K. Finley, Associate Executive Director and Director of Public Policy at AMHCA and co-author of the report. The clinical mental health counseling profession stands ready to provide needed services to people with serious mental health conditions whether an individual resides in an expansion or non-expansion state, and we will promote that goal during Mental Health Counseling Week later this month," Finley stated.

Please click here to download the report.

The American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) works to enhance the profession of mental health counseling through advocacy, education, licensure, and professional development.

AMHCA, 801 N. Fairfax Street, Alexandria, VA, 22314, 703-548-6002, www.amhca.org

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SOURCE American Mental Health Counselors Association