How Obamacare Could Revolutionize Addiction Treatment

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Obamacare’s treatment of alcoholism and other drug addiction as chronic diseases that must be covered by insurance plans could lead to as many as 40 million Americans entering rehabilitation programs, according to California Health Report.

Government data shows that about 24 million Americans aged 12 and older require treatment for a substance abuse issue — but only 11 percent of them received it at a specialty facility. These facilities charge an average of $4,000 for admission, and even outpatient facilities cost an average of $1,500 per course of treatment.

Obamacare could help eliminate those cost barriers for people seeking treatment. “I don’t think there’s another illness that will be more affected by the Affordable Care Act,” said Dr. Thomas McLellan, former deputy director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, in an interview with California Health Report.

Substance abuse and drug addiction haven’t always been perceived as chronic illnesses. But since opiate abuse (which has steadily been on the rise in America), alcoholism, and other addictions cost about $120 billion per year in health care spending, the health law puts special emphasis on both treatment and prevention by forcing insurers to cover rehab and encouraging doctors to screen for potential addictions.

Screening for budding addiction may also prevent other chronic diseases from forming or getting worse, especially since many addicts don’t actively seek care due to the associated stigma and costs. That may also wind up driving up health care costs indirectly by causing other medical problems. For instance, a diabetic American with alcoholism may be less likely to take proper medications, or young Americans who smoke marijuana to excess may end up with asthma. That has doctors hoping that Obamacare’s two-pronged approach to substance abuse could curb U.S. health care costs substantially.