How the Affordable Care Act Impacts Drug and Alcohol Abuse Rehab

Monday, July 9th, 2012

The drug and alcohol abuse rehab landscape is going to begin looking different thanks to a new law- the Affordable Care Act.  This legislation will increase access to mental health and substance abuse treatment for many Americans. Although it is not comprehensive enough to help everyone, it is a step in the right direction for expanding the opportunity for treatment.  Hundreds of thousands of Americans suffer from drug and alcohol abuse problems every year, and it touches families all over the country.  Let’s take a look at how the law will impact rehab and treatment centers.

Integrated Treatment for Drug and Alcohol Abuse Rehab

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration  rehabilitation services are going to be provided in an integrated setting under the Affordable Care Act.

Mental illness often accompanies addiction and substance abuse. Many drug addicts and alcoholics enter drug and alcohol abuse rehab treatment with depression, bipolar disorder or behaviors that mimic schizophrenia or another mental illness. This is called dual diagnosis.

For the past ten years, integrated treatment for dual diagnosis rehab patients has become the preferred avenue of treatment for those who could afford it. Integrated treatment allows an individual to undergo drug and alcohol treatment and the same time they are being treated for mental illness. This leads to more success in recovery, for mental illness can drive the addiction or make it harder to stay sober.

Some insurance plans already cover a 30-day integrated treatment program. But for people without medical insurance, integrated drug and alcohol abuse rehab may have been prohibitively expensive. Under this new law, drug and alcohol abuse rehab treatment is going to become more available and accessible to the general population. Dual diagnosis treatment will become the norm, treating drug/alcohol addictions simultaneously with mental illness and accompanying physical problems.

What will change under the new law?

Expanded Outpatient Programs. According to Jeffrey A. Buck, a senior advisor of the Centers for Medicaid Services,  drug and alcohol addiction will slowly shift from the 30-day inpatient model to an outpatient model. This does not mean residential-style programs will go by the wayside, instead it is an opportunity for residential-style programs to expand their outpatient offerings.

Increased Insurance Coverage. Alcohol and drug addiction coverage is not covered in many health plans. Under this new law, coverage for drug and alcohol abuse rehab will be more comprehensive. More services will be available, and there will be no pre-existing condition denial, no treatment limitations or financial caps that are more restrictive than those of standard, private health insurance plans.

The Affordable Care Act is going to standardize drug and alcohol abuse rehab treatment and make it more medical in nature. This will make it available to many more people in need of treatment. The provisions of the law are not going to kick in overnight, but there will be gradual, fundamental changes in the way alcoholism, substance abuse and addiction are treated. Some of the provisions will start in 2014, so changes are on the horizon.