May 8 (UPI) -- The Affordable Care Act has given millions of Americans access to insurance plans, but new research shows that isn't necessarily giving them access to actual care.
About 12 percent of people who signed up for insurance through the ACA had trouble getting an appointment with a mental health care provider, according to a study published Monday in Health Affairs. That same percentage of people who got a plan through the ACA also couldn't get accepted as a new patient to see a mental health care provider.
"Although the Affordable Care Act added about 20 million people to the number of insured in the United States, significant disparities remain," Ryan McKenna, a researcher at Drexel University and study lead author, said in a news release.
For the study, the researchers examined mental health accessibility data of people who got insurance through an employer, Medicaid and the marketplace plans offered through ACA.
The researchers also found that 9 percent of Medicaid patients had difficulty getting access to healthcare, and just 5 percent of those with employer-sponsored plans had trouble getting appointments.
In 2016, nearly 45 million adults in the United States had a mental health illness, but only 43 percent received care, according to the study.
The researchers say that speeding up Medicaid reimbursement may help more people to get treatment for mental health, especially in light of a shortage of behavioral health specialists.
"Policy makers must look at this data and remedy these barriers for millions of Americans," McKenna said.