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May 1991

Mental Health Needs of the Uninsured

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Applied and Services Research, National Institute of Mental Health, Rockville, Md (Dr Norquist), and the Department of psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, UCLA School of Medicine (Dr Wells).

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1991;48(5):475-478. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1991.01810290087016

• As many as 37 million Americans have no medical insurance, but no data exist on the mental health needs of community samples of the uninsured. Using interview data from a household sample in Los Angeles, we found that the uninsured had a higher prevalence of serious psychiatric disorder (16%) than those with private health insurance (12%), but had a prevalence similar to those with Medicaid (18%). Access to mental health services among those with a psychiatric disorder was similar in the uninsured (14.5%) and those with private insurance (18%) but was less than those with Medicaid coverage (42%). These results indicate that the uninsured have a great potential need for mental health services and that access might be improved through insurance plans such as Medicaid. However, further study is needed to determine the adequacy and quality of services provided under Medicaid and whether such a plan would improve access for an uninsured population such as the one studied here.