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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Study: ACA Boosts Mental Health Access for Young Adults

August 27, 2014 | Children and Youth | Comments
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A new study published in Health Affairs suggests that an Affordable Care Act provision is partly responsible for a 2 percent increase in the number of young adults that receive mental health care. Under the health law, young adults are allowed to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26. Researchers analyzed data from the 2008 to 2012 National Survey of Drug Use and Health, focusing on people ages 18 to 25 with potential mental health or substance use disorders. The analysis found that in the two years following the implementation of this ACA provision, the ratio of young adults with mental health issues who were receiving treatment increased by 2 percent, up from just over 30 percent before 2010.

In addition, the study found that the number of uninsured visits to mental health providers declined by 12.4 percent and that the number of such visits covered by private insurance increased by 12.9 percent. Meanwhile, the number of young adults receiving care for substance use disorders did not change, according to the study.

The study’s researchers said the health insurance system will, nevertheless, still need to adapt to further increase access to care for mental health and substance use disorders. Among the authors’ recommendations were:

  • Ensuring that provider networks are large enough; and
  • Maintaining continuity of care for patients with transitory insurance.