Has Health Law Helped Young People Get Mental Health Treatment?

Mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse often start in adolescence, then peak in young adulthood. But for young people who don’t have steady jobs or stable paychecks, getting help can be tough. A popular provision of the Affordable Care Act that took effect in 2010 aimed to make it easier for young adults to get access to health care, by allowing them to stay on their parents’ insurance until they turn 26. So, are more young adults getting help with mental health issues because of the provision? Maybe, suggests a study published in the September issue of Health Affairs. Before 2010, just over 30 percent of young adults with mental health issues said they were getting treatment. And that went up by about 2 percent in the two years after the ACA provision took effect, the study found, based on data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. That’s not much of an increase, and researchers can’t say exactly why the rate went up. But, they say, there’s evidence that the ACA provision is at least partly responsible. Once it took effect, uninsured visits to mental health care providers went down by 12.4 percent, while the number of visits paid by private insurance increased by 12.9 percent. And among older adults in the 26-to-35 age group, who weren’t affected by the provision, the number seeking care went down. One thing that didn’t change during this time period was the number of young people getting treatment for substance abuse. “This is a first glimpse — an early look at what’s happening,” says Brendan Saloner, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who led the study.

Source/more: NPR/Kaiser Health News

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