Katherine Hudson: Mentally ill need Medicaid

November 23, 2013 

North Carolina does a great job of providing health insurance for children through Medicaid or Health Choice, but when children with mental illnesses turn 18, they have to apply for Supplemental Security Income and be determined disabled in order to obtain health insurance if their parents do not have the means to continue coverage.

Once declared “disabled,” mentally ill young adults qualify for Medicaid and are able to access medication and treatment that often give them the stability to get and maintain a job. However, if they take a job, they risk losing SSI and Medicaid. Unfortunately, many mentally ill young adults are not able to earn the $11,500 minimum income required to qualify for coverage under the ACA.

When Gov. Pat McCrory turned down Medicaid expansion, he forced such young people to accept disability status in order to get Medicaid. The taxpayers would be better served if such young people could have the dignity of working (even in low-paying, part-time jobs) and have Medicaid rather than being on disability.

If North Carolina wants to provide treatment for people with mental illnesses, then the governor should accept Medicaid expansion. We “pay” for it one way or another, whether it is in our emergency rooms, state psychiatric hospitals, jails, prisons or just by robbing young adults of the dignity of working while still having a way to pay for needed medications and treatment.

Katherine Hudson

Carrboro

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