Millions of mentally ill Americans without health insurance in states that refused Medicaid expansion | Arkansas Blog

Millions of mentally ill Americans without health insurance in states that refused Medicaid expansion

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Great story in Stateline on the nearly 4 million Americans with serious mental health conditions who have been left without health insurance by the decision of 24 states turn down federal money to expand Medicaid

The story leads with 45-year-old Kelly Troyer of South Carolina, who suffers from depression and post-traumatic stress disorders because of a sexual assault in 2012. Without health insurance, she couldn't keep up with her medical bills and was forced into personal bankruptcy. 

She lives in one of the 24 states that chose not to expand their Medicaid programs, offered under the Affordable Care Act. Those decisions have left about 3.7 million Americans with serious mental illness, psychological distress or a substance abuse disorder without health insurance, according to a recent report from the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA), a group that represents mental health professionals.

In states that agreed to expand Medicaid, about 3 million people who have those conditions and were uninsured are now eligible for coverage, according to the report.

“It makes no sense that this state would not accept the Affordable Care Act,” Troyer said. “Don’t say no and then don’t offer another option. There are people who are homeless now because they don’t have health insurance. I could be one of them.”

The story quotes Joel Miller, executive director of the American Mental Health Counselors Association:

It is really a tragedy. When uninsured people with mental health conditions, such as depression, gain Medicaid coverage, they become healthier and life expectancy increases, but in states that refuse to expand Medicaid, citizens will see their hopes dashed for a better life and better health.

Yet another example of the human costs of refusing to expand Medicaid, and reason to be thankful that the Arkansas legislature found a way forward to do right by its neediest citizens. 


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