A new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) finds that expanded access to Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) might have helped patients more easily access treatment for behavioral health conditions, which disproportionately affect low-income populations.

For the report, GAO examined 2014 Medicaid data on behavioral health diagnoses and treatment for enrollees under expanded Medicaid programs in four states: Iowa, New York, Washington, and West Virginia. Researchers also reviewed documents and interviewed Medicaid officials.

State officials reported that increased access to treatment under the ACA’s Medicaid expansion led to increased demand for behavioral health treatment. Specifically, up to a third of Medicaid expansion enrollees in these four states received outpatient behavioral health treatment in 2014.

The report found that mental health conditions were more common than substance use conditions, with the most common mental health condition being mood disorders, such as depression. Meanwhile, substance-related conditions, such as opioid addiction, were more prevalent than alcohol-related conditions.

Contact Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at eomalley@essentialhospitals.org or 202.585.0127 with questions.