The number of young adults admitted for mental health conditions has increased 9% since the ACA’s provision allowing adults under the age of 26 to remain on their parents’ health insurance went into effect.
Conducted by researchers at Indiana and Purdue universities examined the ACA health insurance expansion’s effect on inpatient medical care received by young adults using a nationally representative database of inpatient hospital visits. Researchers found that the ACA achieved its goal of decreasing the number of uninsured patients, but has not decreased reliance on inpatient care. In addition to the increase in mental health visits, young adults’ overall use of inpatient services increased by 3.5%. The results are inconsistent with those found in Massachusetts following the state’s own health insurance expansion.
Massachusetts saw no change in general inpatient admissions and a slight decrease in mental health admissions. The researchers believe the difference between the Massachusetts data and the national data comes down to supply and demand. Massachusetts has a supply of primary care and mental health professionals that can support the demand. In other areas of the country, there is a shortage of outpatient health providers, and the hospital may be the only option. The study also found that the majority of new mental health admissions came through the emergency department, which echoes the results from a recent survey where 46% of ED physicians reported increases in patient volume since January 1, 2014.
The researchers acknowledged the limitations of the data used in the study, which did not differentiate whether the increase in inpatient visits were the result of increased frequency of visits by the same patients or an increase in visits by new patients. In any event, it appears the ACA is driving demand for mental health services in the hospital setting.
Barton Associates is positioned to help hospitals meet the increasing demand with its growing network of locum tenens physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners with mental health experience. If you need staffing support, contact us today!