A study led by Judith Weissman from the NYU Langone Medical Center concluded that health care for adults with severe psychological distress is deficient, even with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
When psychiatrists talk about serious psychological distress, they are referring to a mental health issue that requires clinical treatment.
The problem is that patients with severe psychological distress are more likely to be unable to afford health care, and even less likely to pay for their medications.
A wave of depression originated in 2007
Weissman and her colleagues consulted the CDC for performing the study. They were able to draw their conclusions by analyzing over 35,000 families and 200,000 people across all states. They took into account survey results conducted from 2006 all the way through 2014. Only 38 percent of the surveyed households had an annual family income of 400 percent or higher than the federal poverty level at the time.
Researchers realized that currently, middle-aged adults from 45 to 59 years old are now more likely to suffer from mental illness or commit suicide, which is a trend that has not been seen before. Weissman indicates that by 2014, 3.4 percent of American adults suffered from severe psychological distress. That’s over 8 million people.
To measure serious psychological distress, researchers relied on surveys to assess the participants’ levels of sadness, nervousness, exhaustion, being unable to make efforts, feeling worthless, and feeling fidgety.
On the other hand, researchers also took a hand into analyzing access to health care for each individual and whether they can pay for it or not.
Results showed that 3 in every ten patients diagnosed with severe psychological distress did not have insurance of any kind, while the rated stood at 2 out of every ten patients for those with a healthy mental state.
Affordable health care, just not for mental health
In conclusion, it appears that 9.5 percent of Americans cannot rely on health care to visit a psychiatrist, a rate that seems to have increased from 2006 when the rate was 9 percent. The difference appears to be the availability of public health care, which seems to have left mental health out of its primordial range of services.
Seeing that most of that 9.5 percent of Americans are 45 to 59 years old, a generation known as the “late baby boomers” joined with the Generation X, Weissman theorizes that these population conglomerates were deeply affected by the Great Recession of 2008, which coincided with a profound reduction in the use of health care for people with serious psychological distress.
Weissman calls economics the “obvious pointer,” which may be in place seeing that the Great Recession was named the “worst global recession since World War II” by the International Monetary Fund. It lasted from late 2007 through June 2009, and it resulted in the loss of jobs, disbanding of communities, and creating serious family problems. The study recognized 2014 as the year when the Affordable Care Act was implemented, being a successor to the 2008 Mental Health Parity Act.
“Although our analysis does not give concrete reasons why mental health services are diminishing, it could be from shortages in professional help, increased costs of care not covered by insurance, the Great Recession, and other reasons worthy of further investigation,” she stated.
In contrast, those with a better state of mental health were benefited by the Affordable Care Act, and are “doing much better” compared to how they were in 2006.
Researchers note that the importance of the study is based on the fact that severe psychological distress requires treatment, as it is proven that a better mental health state improves overall clinical outcomes and reduces medical costs for other ailments.
Mental illnesses need treatment, just like any other disease
A decent health care system for patients with mental illnesses is often overlooked, even if people with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia die 25 years younger than those with cardiovascular disease. Seeing that serious psychological distress illnesses are treatable, researchers expose the fact that public health care should cover these cases extensively.
Weissman notes that diagnosable psychological conditions, including depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety are immensely harmful to a person’s way of life, as they reduce productivity, lifespan, and hinders social skills.
“The recession seemed to have pushed the mentally ill to a point where they never recovered. The recession seemed to have pushed the mentally ill to a point where they never recovered,” she stated, according to CBS News.
She emphasizes the need for increasing health care accessibility for patients with serious psychological distress and for training psychiatrists and mental health specialists within a setting where they are the primary representation of health care.
In the current state of affairs, as Republicans try to impose the American Health Care Act, the benefits provided by the Affordable Care Act appear to be endangered. Its 10 essential health benefits may be left out of consideration, including the coverage for treating mental illnesses, although a separate $15 million fund for that particular matter has been enacted.
Source: Psychiatric Services