Report shows the Affordable Care Act could provide behavioral healthcare coverage to 5.3 million low income, uninsured Americans.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicates the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) could provide expanded access to behavioral healthcare for 5.3 million low-income, uninsured people who need substance use or mental health treatment.   These people are eligible for this treatment through the expansion of Medicaid benefits provided by the law – if they live in states that participate in the Medicaid expansion program.

The report indicates that more than half of these 5.3 million people who could potentially benefit from the ACA Medicaid expansion program -- 50.8 percent or 2.7 million people -- live in states that have chosen to participate in this program.  Therefore, these people will likely gain coverage.

However, about half (49.2 percent) of low income, uninsured people in need of behavioral healthcare (2.6 million people) may not be able to access the ACA’s Medicaid expansion benefits because they live in states that have either decided not to participate in the Medicaid expansion program or remain undecided about participating in it.

SAMHSA supports programs that provide treatment and services to adults and children with mental and substance disorders who may not be able to benefit from the ACA’s Medicaid expansion opportunity for states.  SAMHSA programs, such as the Mental Health Block Grant and the Children’s Mental Health Initiative, help provide treatment and support services for hundreds of thousands of Americans with mental disorders.

Other SAMHSA programs, such as the Substance Abuse Block Grant, provide funding to foster substance use disorder treatment services in the states, territories, tribes, and tribal organizations.  SAMHSA funding also helps states enhance/expand their treatment service systems to increase capacity and provide accessible, effective, comprehensive, coordinated care, and evidence-based medication assisted treatment and recovery support services to individuals with opioid use disorders. 

The report, State Participation in the Medicaid Expansion Provision of the Affordable Care Act: Implications for the Uninsured Individuals with a Behavioral Health Condition, is available at

The report is based on data from SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).  The NSDUH is a scientifically conducted annual survey of approximately 68,000 people throughout the country, aged 12 and older. 

For more information, contact the SAMHSA Press Office at 240-276-2130.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA's mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities.

Last Updated: 11/17/2015