How Obamacare Could Help Prevent the Next Shooting Rampage

Students gather on the UC Santa Barbara campus for a candlelight vigil for those affected by the tragedy in Isla Vista on May 24 in Santa Barbara, California Photograph by Spencer Weiner/Getty Images

In the wake of the latest shooting rampage by a mentally disturbed young man who was armed to the teeth, it’s worth noting that gun control is not the only policy response that could mitigate the frequency and likelihood of future attacks. Expanding mental health care would also help. And as University of Chicago professor Harold Pollack noted yesterday, the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion represents the fastest way to achieve this:

That’s right: Obamacare could conceivably help stop the next shooter—provided he or she resides in a state where legislators have chosen to take advantage of the law’s efforts to expand Medicaid coverage. As Ron Honberg, the director for policy and legal affairs at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, pointed out to me after the 2012 massacre of teachers and students in Newtown, Conn., “Medicaid is hands down the most important source of funding for public mental health services.” Pollack himself wrote a must-read piece about this for the Washington Monthly last spring.

Elliot Rodger, the Santa Barbara gunman who last week shot and killed six people and wounded 13 others, appears to have had access to therapists and medication. Obviously, mental health care isn’t foolproof. But expanding Medicaid would cover plenty of people who currently don’t have any. Given how infeasible meaningful gun control has proved to be, expanding mental health care might be the most anyone can reasonably hope to achieve.

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