LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. -- Missouri lawmakers seem to be moving closer to agreeing on some sort of expansion of Medicaid under the federal health care law. Up to 300,000 Missourians could gain health insurance this way, including 50,000 people with mental illnesses.
Crystal Steveson is a peer counselor at ReDiscover helping others with mental illness. She has bipolar disorder -- extreme highs and lows. Seven years ago, Crystal tried to take her life.
"The reason I took the overdose was I was tired of being bipolar. I just was -- I was tired of it," says Crystal.
But with the right medicine and therapy, Crystal is stable. Because she has no insurance, the therapy is covered through a state general fund. If Medicaid is expanded in Missouri and Crystal gains coverage, the federal government would chip in. Her medicines would be covered. Right now, she pays 90 dollars a month out of pocket.
"I'm sure it would take a load off my mind to know I have coverage for my mental health," says Crystal.
And, she says, for her physical health. The head of the Missouri Department of Mental Health visited Lee's Summit Friday and says many people with mental illness die early from other diseases such as diabetes because they aren't getting care.
"The tragedy in Missouri and in America, frankly, is that a person that has a serious mental illness like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder will die on average between the ages of 50 and 57 years old. That's third world rates. That's terrible," says Dr. Keith Schafer.
He says expansion of Medicaid could prevent costly, repeat emergency room visits and hospital stays, although he acknowledges that some people with mental illness still won't seek routine care.
"It always depends on the person. And if the person resists treatment, it's always a problem," says Dr. Schafer.
Crystal finds a way to get treatment even without insurance, and says having Medicaid would give her peace of mind.