INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Mental health services are in high demand in large part due to the coronavirus pandemic.
News 8 spoke with behavioral health experts who said mental healthcare isn’t easily accessible and explained the challenges people with Medicare and/or Medicaid face when getting help.
A mental illness can make it challenging for people to live everyday life. It can cause a ripple effect by impacting relationships with family and friends to physical health.
There are 988,000 adults in Indiana with a mental health condition, that’s four times the population of Fort Wayne, according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI).
These conditions range from anxiety and depression to prescription drug abuse and thoughts of suicide.
“Anxiety and depression becoming more prevalent and more obvious to us, the last thing we want is for anybody to not get the help they need,” said director of Policy and Communication at Covering Kids & Families in Indiana Mark Fairchild.
Covering Kids & Families of Indiana is a navigator to help people obtain health insurance. Medicare enrollment in Indiana stood at 1,277,996 people in 2020. “Medicare is something that’s usually for adults who are 65 plus or some of those with certain disabilities,” said Fairchild.
However, Medicaid is the largest public funder for healthcare in the nation with 1,695,169 Hoosiers enrolled as of Feb. 2021.
Fairchild mentioned it’s traditionally for very low-income individuals, but also for pregnant women and children as they have a little bit easier access to that program.
The director of policy added Medicaid insurance is not easy to apply for.
“It’s easier to qualify for Medicare because traditionally if you’re in that 65 plus category you’re in. There’s not income checks and balances and all the other things that you have to do,” Fairchild said. “With Medicaid, they make it a lot more difficult to not just get it but keep it.”
Though Medicaid recipients don’t pay out of pocket to receive care, there aren’t many healthcare providers who accept it because of low reimbursement rates. Meaning, Medicaid doesn’t pay for the full cost of service to the provider.
Fairchild explained, “So the provider is basically saying ‘I’ll accept Medicaid patients. I know I am going to make less on it and I’m going to hope I can offset that elsewhere because I want to serve them, I want to provide the service, but I’m going to get a lower rate than I probably am from somebody paying on their own or from some private insurance.”
This is the first story in a series we’re calling “INside Story.” The rest of Aleah’s stories looking into access to mental health care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those stories will air each morning this week on News 8.