As a growing number of young adults receive mental health care under the Affordable Care Act, costs are likely to rise, according to a new analysis.
Under the law, mental health issues will now be treated the same as physical ailments, USA Today reports. In the past, many health insurance companies offered little or no coverage for mental health disorders, or offered limited treatment.
A key assumption of the Affordable Care Act is that insuring more young adults will decrease costs, because they are healthier and require less costly care, the article notes. But an analysis of insurance records of 6.8 million people ages 18 to 35 finds 18 percent were diagnosed with a mental health condition, such as depression or an eating disorder.
According to the company that conducted the analysis, BeyondCore, treating a young person for depression costs about $7,000—the same as the cost for treating an older person for high blood pressure. Doctors diagnose twice as many people with depression as with high blood pressure, according to BeyondCore CEO Arijit Sengupta.
“The bad news is there has been a mental health epidemic,” Sengupta told the newspaper. “The good news is, if, for no reason other than we get mental health out the shadows, it will be worth it.” He noted that diagnosing and treating mental health issues early could save money in the long run.
More young people will become insured under the new law, either by staying on their parents’ insurance until they are 26, or because they will have to buy insurance beginning in January if they are not already covered, or they will have to pay a fee.