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ACA reduces costs for young adults

May 23, 2016
by Tom Valentino, Senior Editor
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Mental health and addiction treatment professionals might expect to see more young adults, particularly minorities, access their services as a result of coverage provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), according to a recent study. Increased coverage seems to have reduced the financial burden for those with behavioral health conditions significantly.

The study, released in this month’s Psychiatric Services and conducted by the University of Miami School of Business Administration and the University of Maryland School of Public Health, defines young adults as those in the age range of 19 to 25.

The ACA’s dependent coverage provision allows young adults to remain on their family’s health plan until age 26. With coverage extended by the provision to an additional 3 million young adults, access to behavioral health services has improved at a pivotal time in the beneficiaries’ lives.

“Improved access to mental healthcare for people in this age group is critical, given that they often have lower incomes, higher debt burden, and behavioral health issues often emerge at this age,” Karoline Mortensen, associate professor of health sector management and policy at the University of Miami School of Business Administration, said in a statement.

To estimate the impact of the ACA coverage provision, researchers analyzed out-of-pocket spending data from 2008 to 2009 (pre-ACA) and 2011 to 2012 (post-ACA). Young adults with behavioral health conditions who benefited from dependent coverage were about 45% less likely to encounter catastrophic health expenses. The difference was most significant among young adults in racial and ethnic minority groups.