New Health Law Could Affect Addiction
Feb 2014

It has been said that having insurance can mean the difference between getting a spot with a treatment facility or having to wait indefinitely for public help which may not become available. Because money for treatment is limited, many of the slots in rehab centers and hospitals have been scarce. Only around 10 percent of the 23 million Americans with drug and alcohol problems are able to receive treatment according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Many of the rehab centers have been shrinking over the years instead of growing because there were numerous government budget cuts for patients who were receiving public support. In the coming years, medical colleges and treatment programs will face more pressure to push towards creating a larger system. Until that point, addiction treatment is going to represent an extreme example associated with the Affordable Care Act's challenges; being able to provide the care that people were told they would be able to receive. There are already a large amount of people with substance problems who are waiting eagerly for January when they will be able to get coverage.

The new health law could provide subsidies to help many people buy private coverage. The government is also working towards getting programs to include more working poor people as well. If 20 states were to expand their Medicaid programs, then 3.8 million prospective patients with addiction problems would be able to get insurance. Just as important as the expansion, however, the new law designates that addiction treatment is an "essential health benefit" for the majority of commercial plans that are available. This is being considered to be one of the most profound changes with the most significant impact ever found within a drug policy.

Unfortunately, some rehab centers in Chicago may already show what the results are going to be like for those who are waiting to get treatment. On a typical Friday morning at the Haymarket Center, there are seven men who are slumped over in chairs in a small bare room. They are forced to wait for an opportunity to get to have a detox bed available that night. Although the building is six stories and offers numerous programs for over 300 patients, there isn't always room for those who need help. The center is typically overbooked. One day, there was a waiting list of around 91 people who needed help and were forced to wait for beds or other rooms to become available so that they could receive the attention that they needed.

The biggest question is how the medical industry is going to be able to bridge the gap between the lack of space and the demand for treatment between now and the period when everyone becomes eligible for insurance. It is going to be very difficult for professionals to find facilities that are going to have enough space and enough staff to provide treatment for those who need it, even though many of these people have been waiting for years to receive the help that they need in order to recover.


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