Report reveals Texas Medicaid expansion would improve behavioral health care


In Texas, 406,000 uninsured people with a mental illness or substance use disorder had incomes that could qualify them for expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act in 2014.

A report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services yesterday revealed the state of Texas would greatly improve access to behavioral health services for residents by expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Substance use disorders and mental illness are serious health problems in the state, with 406,000 uninsured people with incomes that could qualify them for expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act in 2014. The report also finds that people with behavioral health needs made up a substantial share of all low-income uninsured individuals: in Texas, about 23.2 percent. While some of these individuals had access to some source of health insurance in 2014, many will only gain access to coverage if Texas expands Medicaid.

“About one third of patients accessing care through emergency rooms in North Texas have behavioral health and addictive disease issues,” said W. Stephen Love, president/CEO of the DFW Hospital Council. “Combined with the growing issue of opioid addictions, this could become a major issue in the state.”

The report highlights that, along with its other benefits, Medicaid expansion would dramatically improve access to treatment for people with mental and substance use disorders, thereby improving health outcomes.

“The report shows that Medicaid expansion is an important step Texas can take to address behavioral health needs,” said Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell.

Research shows that low-income adults with serious mental illness are significantly more likely to receive treatment if they have access to Medicaid coverage, with benefits for their health. The report estimates that if Texas expanded Medicaid, 101,000 fewer individuals would experience symptoms of depression and 147,000 additional individuals would report being in good or excellent health.

To date, 30 states plus DC have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. However, 20 states — including many of the states that would benefit most — have not yet seized the opportunity. Previous studies have found that if these states do not change course, over 4 million of their citizens will be deprived of health insurance coverage in 2016.

You can read the full report here.