Access to Affordable Health Care
Is Improving Mental Health


Access to health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act is having a profound effect on the mental health of those who were previously uninsured, according to the New York Times.  “Waitresses, fast food workers, security guards and cleaners described feeling intense relief that they are now protected from the punishing medical bills that have punched holes in their family budgets.”

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Of further interest:
The NY Times article cites The Oregon Health Insurance Experiment, which found that “physical health, like obesity and the prevalence of diabetes, did not change much. But mental health improved drastically, with instances of depression plummeting.”

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. Like many others, I’m for making sure everyone has access to health care, bit IMO, this law was *never* about that.

    And now, I suppose many people are excited to see long lines at the pharmacy when it comes to “mental health care”… Antidepressants for all.

    Baaah, baaah…


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  2. Actually, this is more about people with diabetes and failing kidneys being able to get insulin – not “mental health care.” It’s just that the relief from constant worry over such matters has an immediate effect on their mental health. Surprise, surprise: Living on the ragged edge of survival can drive you a bit mad.

    Two things I noticed: one, this is about people who qualify for the expanded Medicaid program, not the private insurance being sold on Many of those folks will find themselves with such high deductibles that trying to get healthcare of any kind will remain a source of intense anxiety (and bill collectors calling on the phone).

    The other thing is that even the Medicaid folks may find it hard to locate a doctor who’s willing to see them. The majority of U.S. docs avoid Medicaid patients like the plague, because of low reimbursement rates. And the article notes that many of them still can’t afford adequate food and shelter – which might do even more for their health than a Medicaid card. Good insight there.

    I suspect we’re still in for some rough sledding health-wise in the good old USA – Obamacare or not. Big Insurance, Big Pharma and Big Medicine are still in the driver’s seat, each one watching out for its profit margins first and foremost.

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