Under Obamacare, More Young Adults Seek Mental Health Care

Students studying outsideAlthough it can change lives, therapy can also be prohibitively expensive, averaging anywhere from $60 to $200 per session, depending on where you live. For young adults—who may still be in college or navigating the challenges of low-paid, entry-level jobs—therapy can seem like little more than an expensive luxury. But mental health concerns such as depression and schizophrenia frequently manifest for the first time in young adults. Thanks to two key provisions in the Affordable Care Act, though, more adults between the ages of 18 and 25 are seeking mental health care.

The Affordable Care Act and Young Adults

The Affordable Care Act—popularly known as Obamacare—allows young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until their 26th birthday, expanding the number of young adults who have mental health coverage. The law also requires that insurers cover mental health care, and makes preventive services, such as depression screenings, free.

To evaluate the effects of Obamacare on young adults’ mental health care, researchers looked at government health survey data. They found that, between 2008 and 2012, 20,000 surveyed 18- to 25-year-olds showed signs of a mental health issue. Prior to the advent of Obamacare, 31% of these young adults had sought mental health care. After the law went into effect, the number increased slightly, to 33%. Although the increase is small, 26- to 35-year-olds actually saw a downturn in access to mental health care during the same time period, suggesting that the slight percentage bump is a significant one. 

Mental health challenges tend to get worse if left untreated, so early intervention means fewer challenges for young adults facing mental health struggles. Early access to mental health care could also mean fewer academic problems, better social skills, healthier relationships, and fewer challenges adjusting to the stress of adulthood.



  1. Health Insurance and Mental Health Services. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.mentalhealth.gov/get-help/health-insurance/
  2. Norton, A. (2014, August 4). More Young Adults Getting Mental Health Care Under Obamacare: Study. Retrieved from http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2014/08/04/more-young-adults-getting-mental-health-care-under-obamacare-study
  3. Pierce, E. (2011, April 20). Therapy costly for the stressed average Joe. Retrieved from http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2011/04/14/therapy-costly-stressed-average-joe/

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  • Jake

    August 6th, 2014 at 12:26 PM

    I agree that this is a good thing, that more people are seeking out this kind of treatment. I mean, if you need it, then definitely look inot getting that care. But can the system handle the newfound interest in this type of proactive stance? I am all for it but only if there are enough providers to meet the needs of those who are seeking it out. I am afraid that if someone finally works up the courage to look for mental health care but then can’t find anyone to provide it without a long wait time or without having to drive many miles to find someone in their insurance network then that will negate all of the positives of the numbers to begin with. I am happy that it is attainable, I just want to make siure that it is accessible.

  • violet

    August 6th, 2014 at 3:19 PM

    Here’s hoping that they then don’t wind up with exorbitant medical bills that they can’t pay!

  • Josephine F

    August 7th, 2014 at 3:05 AM

    I agree with Jake’s comment about the problems with finding therapists on the new plans on the exchanges. Unfortunately, the in network panels are very small and, at least for the plans in NYS, there are no out of network choices. I think that, in effect, people who signed up for these plans are going to discover that it will be hard to find therapists.

  • Jake

    August 7th, 2014 at 1:39 PM

    I have been thinking and thought that maybe some colleges and universities could step in with more counseling options for them on campus. This might not be suitable care for long term but it would at least be a good start as well as a way to get a referral to someone who might could better handle more serious issues.

  • Faith

    August 8th, 2014 at 11:46 AM

    Another thing to be concerned about is what happens when they then have to go off of their parents’ coverage. Will the same services still be available or affordable to them when they have to have their own coverage and not only pay for the premiums but also for their services and treatment too? This is not just applicable to mental health care but for general wellness too. This was a great plan on paper but unfortunately for most of us I don’t think that it is panning out quite like we needed it too. There are still too many road blocks and obstacles to great coverage that most of us are still struggling with how to make ends meet and to make healthcare a priority as well.

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