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More Young Adults Use Private Insurance for Behavioral Health Treatment

More Young Adults Use Private Insurance for Behavioral Health Treatment

More Young Adults Use Private Insurance for Behavioral Health Treatment following the ACA’s Dependent Coverage Mandate

In 2010, the Affordable Care Act extended health insurance coverage to individuals aged 19 to 25 whose parents had employer-sponsored private insurance. Thanks to this extended coverage, more young adults have access to mental health and substance abuse treatment services through their parents’ employer-sponsored health insurance.  A new report from SAMHSA also shows these changes in healthcare spending.

Average payment for mental health and substance abuse treatment among 19-26 year olds, before and after the ACA enactmentThis coverage expansion meant that, among those young people who received behavioral health treatment, fewer were using public funds to do so.  Data analysis1shows this shift. From 2004-2012, average yearly treatment costs for 19-25-year-olds who received mental and substance use treatment remained constant at approximately $1,600.  However, the source of those payments changed significantly.  Private insurance took on a much larger share, increasing from $520 to $822 annually, while treatment paid by Medicaid and other public sources (such as Medicare, Veterans Affairs/Civilian Health and Medicaid Program for Uniform Services) declined from $698 to $417.

These are significant changes. It will be interesting to see whether expanded Medicaid, which took effect in 2014, will reverse this trend and again increase the use of public funds within this age group.  Unfortunately, greater access to treatment doesn’t necessarily mean more young people will take advance of these treatment options. We know that the Affordable Care Act has created greater access to behavioral health treatment for this age group, but we still have much work to do to break down other barriers to treatment.

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