While many newly insured patients are seeking care now that the Affordable Care Act has expanded coverage, there has not been a rush of new patients receiving treatment for substance use disorders or mental health issues.
This is according to U.S. News & World Report.
Several factors are keeping people from receiving care for substance use disorders and mental health care, known collectively as behavioral health, the article notes.
Experts believe the majority of the five million people who are without health care, because they live in states that have not expanded Medicaid, need mental health treatment. Some patients who do have insurance are not aware their benefits include coverage for behavioral health.
While mental health and substance use disorders are considered essential health benefits and must be covered, the Affordable Care Act does not specify which particular services must be covered. States vary in their requirements.
"There's a perception that enforcement is not what it should be, and that people aren't getting the benefits they are entitled to," said Bob Carolla, a spokesman at the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
If more patients do start seeking care for behavioral health, experts are concerned there will not be adequate resources to serve them.
A report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found a shortage of 1,846 psychiatrists and 5,931 other mental health professionals. In 55 percent of U.S. counties, there are no practicing psychiatrists, psychologists or social workers. All of these counties are rural.
"There has been a long-standing shortage," Carolla says. "Expansion of health care is a good thing, but it also means you are widening demand for it."