Drug Addiction and the Affordable Care Act

One of the most important changes to healthcare provided by the Affordable Care Act is access to quality health insurance for those who suffer from addiction. Signed into law on March 23, 2010, by President Barack Obama, the Affordable Care Act was designed to lower the rate of uninsured Americans by expanding the quality and availability of insurance while reducing the cost to citizens as well as the government.

Also known as “Obamacare,” the ACA is arguably one of the most significant changes to the healthcare system in regards to substance use and addiction.

The Cost of Treatment

In the United States, drug and alcohol addictions encompass approximately $120 billion worth of health care spending. Prior to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, substance abusers often did not seek help due to the high costs of treatment. At the lower end of the spectrum you have the outpatient facilities charging about $1,500 per round of treatment, with specialty facilities at the higher end, averaging approximately $4,000 per admission.

As of 2014, all health insurance, whether provided by Medicaid or sold on Health Insurance Exchanges, must provide services for substance use disorders. As such, Obamacare could help lower these cost hurdles for substance abusers seeking to end their addiction.

The Impact of the ACA on Addiction

In an interview with the California Health Report, Dr. Thomas McLellan said “I don’t think there’s another illness that will be more affected by the Affordable Care Act”. And he may well be right; it’s estimated that up to 40 million Americans may enter drug rehab programs now that insurance plans are required to cover addiction as a chronic disease.

The ACA’s emphasis on screening and prevention of addiction is one of the most crucial aspects of the new health laws. Spotting the signs of addiction in the early stages, and providing treatment at that time, will prove to be very beneficial to addicts as well as society as a whole.

Improved Access to Better Treatment

As mentioned earlier, the average cost of an outpatient program is approximately $1,500 for a round of treatment. As one of the lower priced options available, many substance abusers choose outpatient programs over pricey inpatient programs. Unfortunately, you often get what you pay for. Outpatient programs have a high rate of relapse.

On the other hand, addicts who spend over 30 days at an inpatient program are less likely to relapse and have nearly double the chance for long-term sobriety. Inpatient programs are rarely within budget for many addicts, but with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act more people will have access to this type of treatment, increasing their odds of becoming drug-free members of society.

Time Will Tell

As it stands, the Affordable Care Act hasn’t had much time to prove itself worthy to the cause of drug addiction treatment. Only time and research will tell if the ADA improves the costs and long-term recovery rates of addiction. Hopefully, this healthcare reform will relieve some of the burdens of addiction on the people, society, and the economy of this country.


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