Flanked by law enforcement officials and health professionals, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon details a new plan on the impact of strengthening Medicaid on mental health, in St. Louis on March 3, 2013. UPI/Bill Greenblatt | License Photo
WASHINGTON, April 8 (UPI) -- Nearly half of the states in the Union, mostly in the South and Midwest, have refused to expand Medicaid programs under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
As a result, 3.7 million Americans suffering from serious mental illness, psychological pain and/or substance abuse problems are without health insurance -- that according to a new report from the American Mental Health Counselors Association.
The study, released earlier this year, says 11 Southern states account for roughly 75 percent of the nearly four million uninsured people with mental illnesses. Those states include: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
The 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld Obamacare's individual mandate also allowed states the right to opt out of the law's Medicaid eligibility expansion provisions.
"It is really a tragedy," Joel Miller, executive director of AMHCA, told USA Today -- speaking to the lack of coverage for those with mental illnesses. "When uninsured people with mental health conditions, such as depression, gain Medicaid coverage, they become healthier and life expectancy increases, but in states that refuse to expand Medicaid, citizens will see their hopes dashed for a better life and better health."
AMHCA compiled their information using statistics from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an annual survey carried out by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Census Bureau.