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Access in Brief: Behavioral Health and Beneficiary Satisfaction by Race and Ethnicity

Racial and ethnic health disparities persist throughout the U.S. health care system. Measuring differences in access and use of services, as well as experience and satisfaction of behavioral and mental health care, can help to better understand the underlying causes of disparities. This issue brief highlights data from the 2016 Association of American Medical Colleges Consumer Survey of Health Care Access to assess behavioral health care access, overall patient experience and satisfaction, as well as experience with unfair treatment and discrimination.

There were several differences in experiences with accessing and using behavioral and mental health care services between adults covered by private insurance and those covered by Medicaid, and some differences between white, non-Hispanic, and non-white Medicaid beneficiaries. Across both insurance types, over half of respondents reported they needed behavioral or mental health care one time in the past year. Medicaid covered adults were more likely to report needing care more than one time compared to those covered by private insurance.

Overall, three quarters of Medicaid beneficiaries were always able to receive behavioral or mental health care, but there were reported differences in experience while receiving care between racial and ethnic groups. For example, non-white Medicaid beneficiaries were more likely to report unfair treatment during a behavioral or mental health care visit compared to white, non-Hispanic beneficiaries.