HHS: Medicaid Expansion Could Greatly Increase Access to Drug Treatment

Expanding access to Medicaid in 20 states that have not done so under the Affordable Care Act could help the estimated 1.9 million people living in those states who have a mental illness or substance use disorder, a new report concludes.

The report, released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is part of an effort by federal health officials to get more states to agree to extend Medicaid eligibility to all low-income residents under the Affordable Care Act, The Wall Street Journal reports.

A 2012 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court effectively allowed governors and state legislators to choose whether to expand Medicaid, the article notes. So far, 30 states have opted into the program.

People with behavioral health needs make up almost 30 percent of all low-income uninsured individuals in states that have not expanded Medicaid, the report notes. While some have access to other sources of health insurance, many only can be covered if their states expand Medicaid, according to HHS.

“Today’s report shows that Medicaid expansion is an important step states can take to address behavioral health needs, including serious mental illness and opioid and other substance use disorders,” HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said in a news release.

HHS says expanding Medicaid allows states to have a more productive workforce, by reducing “adverse workforce outcomes stemming from mental and substance use disorders.” The report notes that research shows “substance use disorder treatment was associated with $5,366 annually in employer savings from reduced absenteeism alone.”

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