Jessica Schabel, 19, is under treatment at the Impact Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center in Pasadena for heroin and methamphetamine addiction. Her insurance benefits only allowed for 30 days, but the facility paid for her to stay an additional 30 days to continue treatment. (Heidi de Marco/KHN)
By Anna Gorman, Kaiser Health News
The nation’s health law has promised sweeping changes to help millions of people with drug or alcohol addiction get treatment. Many unable to afford services in the past now can receive them without first landing in jail or an emergency room, health officials say.
An old law bars many residential drug treatment centers from billing Medicaid.
“There is no illness that will be more favorably affected [by the Affordable Care Act] than substance abuse,” said A. Thomas McLellan, former U.S. deputy drug czar who now heads Treatment Research Institute in Philadelphia. “This is the beginning of substance abuse disorders being part of mainstream health care.”
The law requires that substance abuse treatment be offered to people newly insured through the insurance exchanges or Medicaid, the government health plan for the poor and disabled.
But serious impediments remain to widespread access, including a shortage of substance abuse providers and available beds nationwide, say treatment experts and government officials. Continue reading