If You Want to Reduce Suicide, Medicaid Expansion is a Good Place to Start

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released results this week to document that suicide rates have increased by 24% since 1999. The increase has been especially rapidly among women and among middle-aged people of both genders between the ages of 45 and 64. This is just a huge problem. Quite properly, the story has gotten much play. This morning’s New York Times includes a front-page story: “U.S. Suicide rate surges to a 30-year high.”

I’m glad that the story has gotten so much attention. Yet the generalized calls to action seem oddly divorced from the actual policy levers through which we might reduce this problem. Here for example is my friend (and Twitter sparring partner) Ron Fournier:

 

Ron asked the right question, but left things oddly hanging when the most obvious answer was staring him in the face: States could adopt the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, which expands access to mental health services, supports the ecology of safety-net mental health care, and protects many people against burdensome medical debt, which is often referred to collection agencies. All of these issues plausibly matter for people at risk of self-harm and suicide.

More here, at healthinsurance.org.

PS–Yeah, guns matter, too. An essay for another day.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is the Helen Ross Professor at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago.