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Study Ties Medicaid Expansion to Mental Health Services

By Marissa Evans, CQ Roll Call

August 18, 2015 --The 19 states that have chosen not to expand Medicaid under the health care law could be hindering their abilities to care for those living with mental illnesses, according to a Psychiatric Services in Advance report.

If all the states undertook an expansion by 2020, health centers would have nearly $230 million in additional revenue, according to the report. On top of that, the study found nationwide expansion could provide an estimated $11.3 million for mental health services and $1.6 million for substance abuse services that year.

The report focuses on community health centers that have become increasingly important for low-income and uninsured populations to go to for care. More than four in five health centers offer on-site mental health services, and half offer substance abuse treatment services on site, according to the report. Medicaid is the jointly administered federal–state health program for the poor.

If all the states haven't expanded Medicaid by 2020, 29 percent of patients will be uninsured. However, the study found that if the holdouts were to open up their roils, almost half of each health center's patients will be covered by Medicaid  and the uninsured rate could drop to 21.5 percent.

For behavioral health issues, aside from allowing more patients to be in Medicaid, more of them could be treated. The study notes that an estimated 59,214 more mental health encounters and 11,480 encounters with substance abuse treatment specialists might occur in health centers in those states.

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