President Barack Obama speaks at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., about the fight against Ebola. The president is highlighting advances in research for an Ebola vaccine and pushing Congress to approve his request for $6.2 billion to confront the disease abroad and to secure against its spread in the United States
President Barack Obama tours the Vaccine Research Center with Dr. Nancy Sullivan, U.S. Secretary of HHS Sylvia Burwell, and Dr. Anthony Fauci to talk about Ebola, during a visit to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland
Jane C. Timm: Study: Obamacare Helping More Youth To Get Mental Health Treatment
Young adults have a higher risk of mental health problems and substance abuse – both issues that the U.S. health care system traditionally has struggled to treat. But according to a new study, the number of high-risk youth seeking and receiving affordable care is on the rise, thanks to an Obamacare provision that allows young people to stay on their parents’ health plan until they turn 26. Two million young people now have health care coverage because of the provision, the study notes, but the biggest shift has been with youth demographics that are most at risk.
Among 18-25 year olds exhibiting signs of mental health or substance abuse problems, 5.3% more received mental health care than a comparable group of 26-35 year olds, researchers from Johns Hopkins and Harvard found in the study, published this month in the health care journal Health Affairs. The cost of care has decreased, too: Uninsured doctor visits requiring patients to pay out of pocket were down 12.4%, while the number of covered visits rose 12.9%. Three-quarters of all mental illnesses begin by age 24, according to the National Institute of Health. Before the passage of the Affordable Care Act, nearly 60% of all mental health or substance abuse care for young Americans was paid for out-of-pocket. Mental health care coverage is often prohibitively expensive, a factor that respondents routinely cite as a reason for not seeking care.
“I am so happy,” says Sizemore as she waits at the Grace Community Health Centre in Clay County, Kentucky, “I’ve not had insurance since I turned 19.” But Sizemore is also nervous. She is seriously overweight and was warned in her teens that she was likely to develop diabetes. Without health insurance she has not been able to afford tests or check-ups to see if she has indeed got the disease. Sizemore is one of 421,000 people in Kentucky who’ve signed up since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare, came into force last October. Like many, she now qualifies for Medicaid, the government programme that pays for health care for the poorest Americans. Under the new law, the federal government offers states money to expand Medicaid so that many more people on very low wages, like Liberty Sizemore, are covered. Benita Adams may be one of the people the Governor has in mind. The 62-year-old grandmother lives on the edge of the rolling Appalachian Mountains in eastern Kentucky. She owns her home but works two jobs as a dental assistant to make ends meet.
Adams has had no health insurance since her divorce 30 years ago. A recent heart operation left her with a $67,000 bill. Although the hospital waived around half of that, she still pays $50 a month to clear the rest. “I used to say, if I get hurt just let me be killed because I can’t afford to pay any more hospital bills,” she says. But Adams no longer has to worry. Under Obamacare, she qualifies for a private insurance plan with a hefty government subsidy that covers the monthly payments in full. “Everyone was mad over Obamacare but it’s just wonderful, it’s really helping people,” Adams says as she lists the medical appointments she has been to since getting insured. Liberty Sizemore, waiting for her blood test results at the Grace Community Health Centre, feels the same. “I was so worried,” she says. “But now I can get better because I have a doctor. I have a doctor and that’s a relief off my shoulders, more than you can know.”