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Sober Nation

Putting Recovery On The Map

08-21-13 | By

The Affordable Health Care Act and its Impact on Addiction Services

With the implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act next year, the access to effective health care for those with addiction issues would improve dramatically.  Those who would benefit the most from these new laws would include people who were previously enrolled in Medicaid and then were disenrolled, those coming out of the criminal justice system, and people who have not been able to previously afford insurance.  In the past, it was estimated that nearly one-third of those who purchased insurance had no coverage for substance abuse issues and nearly two out of ten individuals did not have access to mental health services.

The Benefits of the Affordable Health Care Act Regarding Addiction Services

affordable healthcare actAccording to an article published in the New York Times earlier this year, 32 million people would gain access to coverage of mental health as a result of the new benefits.  Also, 30 million people who have mental health coverage would see improvements in both coverage and care.  In the larger picture, the implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act would greatly benefit the addiction care field, which has been on the fringes of the medical community.

Even though doctors have concluded for decades that addiction was a treatable condition, it is estimated that one cent of every health care dollar in the United States goes towards addiction treatment and coverage.  It has been noted that the main reason for the lack of resources geared towards addiction prevention and treatment has been the lack of health insurance.  According to an article published in the Associated Press in February of this year, 3 to 5 million people with drug and alcohol problems would suddenly become eligible for insurance coverage through provisions in the Affordable Health Care Act. Therefore very few of these people can get access to an addiction treatment center and/or detox centers.

With these new provisions, the number of people seeking treatment could double.  In addition, the once marginalized field of addiction services would be thrust into the mainstream of medical care.  According to the same AP story, private equity firms have increased their investments in addiction treatment companies in advance of the possibility of more paying patients.  With more funding, there may be more avenues for those addicted and their families to get the support they need.

Possible Drawbacks of the Implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act and Addiction Services

Currently, the system used for treating substance abuse is small and almost or at capacity in many places.  Also, these systems currently are in large part publicly funded and run by counselors with limited medical training.  With these factors in mind, the possibility off increased demand could overload the system.  This would cause people who need treatment to be put on waiting list that could last for months, due to the fact that rehab centers have experienced a reduction in funding due to government budget cuts.

Another point that has been made is how treatment centers and medical colleges will be under pressure to create a larger treatment system that would be able to not only meet the demand, but actually would deliver the quality of care that people are supposed to receive.  As it stands currently, of the estimated 23 million Americans with drug and alcohol problems, only 10% currently are receiving treatment.   Being able to obtain insurance could mean the difference between getting a spot in a treatment facility or being put on a waiting list for an indefinite period of time.

However, it had been noted in the above mentioned AP article that the new law would have provisions to provide subsidies to help many buy private coverage.  The states are also being pressed by the government to expand their Medicaid programs to include those in the working poor segment of the population.  This new law would also designate addiction treatment as an essential health benefit.

 

Tim Powers – bald, tattooed, a business professional by day and rocker by night. Sober by the grace of God since the 8th of May in the year of our Lord 2003. Sharing my stories and myself in order to pay it forward. You can follow me on Twitter @tpowersbass42

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