The Supreme Court’s ruling in June upholding the health care law championed by President Obama reignited an intense debate, with Democrats celebrating millions of Americans getting access to insurance while Republicans railed against what they contend is a dangerous expansion of government. Regardless of any political view, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), or “Obamacare,” will greatly improve addiction treatment accessibility to those that need it most.
There are four major ways the ACA will improve an individual’s ability to receive affordable treatment:
- Health care parity. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 mandated that all small-group group insurance that offered mental health benefits must make coverage equivalent to all other health conditions. However, there was a huge loophole. The law only applied to insurance policies that offered mental health services, so insurers could get rid of mental health services altogether to dodge the law. The ACA resolves this issue by mandating the coverage of mental health services.
- Coverage through age 26. The vast majority of addicts develop the issue in their teen years and early adulthood. Raising the age children can stay on their parents’ insurance policies also will extend the time that they may acknowledge that they have a substance abuse problem and seek treatment.
- Makes preexisting health conditions acceptable. Presently, addicts have a difficult time getting health insurance coverage no matter how long they have been sober. The ACA would not allow the denial of coverage because of health conditions that have already developed, such as addiction.
- Screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment (SBIRT). This is a quick screening that has been demonstrated by public health experts to stop abuse from growing into an out-of-control addiction. It is an effective preventative measure that helps to halt the addiction process.
In any given year, about 2.3 million Americans receive substance abuse treatment. However, according to the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 25 million meet criteria for Substance Use Disorders. A primary reason why more than 90% of those who could benefit from treatment don’t receive it is lack of insurance or other means to pay. Now that an estimated 95% of the country’s legal population will have healthcare coverage–and, thanks to the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, insurers who cover substance abuse treatment must do so at the same level of benefit they provide for other medical conditions — we’re likely to see a marked increase in the number of people seeking help.
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