Access to Care Among Adults Aged 18–64 With Serious Psychological Distress

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Between 2013 and the first 9 months of 2015 almost 15 million adults aged 18–64 gained health insurance coverage in the United States. In monitoring the effects of this shift in coverage, one population of special interest is those with mental health conditions.

Previous studies have shown adults with mental health conditions have greater health care needs and are at higher risk for poor health outcomes, but may have reduced access to services.

A new NCHS report provides estimates of health care access and utilization for adults aged 18–64 with and without serious psychological distress in the past 30 days, an indicator of mental health problems severe enough to cause moderate-to-serious impairment in social, occupational, or school functioning and to require treatment. Estimates were based on data from the National Health Interview Survey for January 2012 through September 2015.

Findings:

  • Among adults aged 18–64 with serious psychological distress, the percentage who were uninsured decreased from 28.1% in 2012 to 19.5% in the first 9 months of 2015. Adults without serious psychological distress saw a decrease in the percentage of uninsured from 20.3% in 2012 to 12.3% in the first 9 months of 2015.
  • Although more adults with serious psychological distress have public rather than private coverage, the percentage with public coverage has remained relatively stable from 2012 through the first 9 months of 2015 while the percentage with private coverage has increased over the same time
    period.
  • The percentage of adults with serious psychological distress who have seen a mental health care professional in the past 12 months has declined from 2012 to the first 9 months of 2015.
  • In the first 9 months of 2015, 24.4% of adults with serious psychological distress and 6.1% of those without serious psychological distress had not received needed medical care due to cost.
  • The percentage of adults with serious psychological distress who needed mental health care but could not afford it declined from 2012 to the first 9 months of 2015.
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