Medicaid Funding Would Expand Psychiatric Beds Under New Bill

As the nation faces a growing mental health crisis among people who are homeless, a bipartisan bill being introduced in Congress on Thursday may substantially increase the number of psychiatric beds covered by Medicaid.

Proponents of the bill say that it will help address a severe shortage of psychiatric hospital beds and spur the construction of new beds and new facilities.

The bill is sponsored by the unlikely-seeming New York City congressional duo of Dan Goldman, a liberal Democrat, and Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican Trump loyalist, along with Representatives Tony Cárdenas, Democrat of California, and Gus Bilirakis, a Florida Republican. Mr. Goldman is the lead author of the bill, the Michelle Go Act, named after the woman who was fatally pushed in front of a subway train in New York in 2022 by a man with schizophrenia, who had spent decades rotating from hospital to jail to street.

Under current law, for people age 21 to 64, Medicaid covers stays in dedicated psychiatric hospitals only if they have 16 or fewer beds. The Michelle Go Act would raise the threshold to 36 beds.

Mr. Goldman said in an interview that the legislation would “not only provide for significantly more beds for long-term mental health care but has the potential to increase the ability for those who cannot afford mental health care to get the treatment they need.”

Mr. Goldman has said that he would have liked to remove the cap on hospital size altogether — one estimate put the cost at $33 billion over 10 years. But he said that the more modest measure was necessary to win support on both sides of the aisle.

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