Medicaid is a joint federal-state program that provides health care coverage for people with low incomes. Following passage of the health reform law (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), the program covers both adults and children based on their financial situation.

Federal Medicaid law allows states to cover a wide range of intensive community mental health services that are appropriate for adults with serious mental illnesses. It also mandates that states cover a similarly comprehensive array of community services for children. The program rules are complex, but the Bazelon Center has developed resources that provide information on the most relevant aspects of the program in terms of services to people with mental illnesses.  

The Bazelon Center considers Medicaid the primary funding mechanism for public mental health systems (it is already the most significant payer). Unfortunately, many states have not taken full advantage of Medicaid options for adults and many have also restricted children’s access to the services to which they are entitled by failing to provide definitions that enable providers to readily bill for those services.

The Bazelon Center has produced a number of publications that describe the Medicaid program, provide state-by-state summaries of how states are using Medicaid, and make policy recommendations for the federal and state governments on how the program can be improved. Powerpoint presentations are also available. The Bazelon Center also engages in considerable advocacy with Congress and the administration regarding the need to expand eligibility, finance the most effective services, improve opportunities for consumers to self-direct their Medicaid-funded services and other issues.

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