Potential mental health needs of US adult residents under different provisions of the Affordable Care Act

Jack Tsai, Corey E Pilver, Rani A Hoff
Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 2014, 75 (12): 1402-10

OBJECTIVE: This study examined different groups of the US population who may be affected by the expansion of Medicaid and creation of health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

METHOD: Data were based on structured interviews with a nationally representative sample of 34,587 adults from the 2004-2005 Wave 2 of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). Psychiatric diagnoses were assessed with the Alcohol Use Disorder and Associated Disabilities Interview Schedule-IV.

RESULTS: Of the total sample, 6.4% were currently on Medicaid; 3.9% were uninsured and likely eligible for the Medicaid expansion (LEME); 8.6% were uninsured and not LEME but likely to participate in the health insurance exchanges; 4.6% were insured and LEME; and 76.6% were insured and not LEME. Among those uninsured, those LEME had a significantly higher prevalence of mood and anxiety disorders than those not LEME (odds ratios = 1.26-1.41). Among those insured, those LEME had a higher prevalence of mood, anxiety, substance use, and personality disorders than those not LEME (odds ratios = 1.78-2.41). Although there were few clinical differences between those currently on Medicaid and those LEME, those currently on Medicaid were more likely to use all types of services for mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders.

CONCLUSIONS: The ACA may directly affect the 12.5% of the US adult population who are uninsured by requiring them to obtain insurance coverage. Given the high prevalence for various psychiatric disorders among those uninsured, state plans to expand Medicaid and create health insurance exchanges have potential to offer coverage to many adults with mental health needs, and states should carefully plan for comprehensive services.

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