Right now, the most urgent and controversial topic on Capitol Hill is the Senate’s proposed healthcare bill intended to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as ObamaCare. This new bill, initially penned by the House of Representatives, received scrutiny from both sides of the aisle when it was revealed and passed on to the Senate. As a result, hardline conservatives in the Senate have been able to revise the bill with even harsher cuts on spending. Though these cuts should be alarming to everyone who gained coverage under the ACA, it will be particularly detrimental to the advances in addiction treatment.
How Did The ACA Help Addicts?
Under ObamaCare, insurance companies are required to cover mental health services including treatment for substance abuse. Addiction treatment was included in a part of the called “Essential Health Benefits,” which defined the types of coverage all Americans should be entitled to if they pay for health insurance. This meant that 30% of people who already had insurance now have expanded coverage as a result of the ACA. Essential Health Benefits lead to an increase in the number of people seeking not only addiction treatment but treatment for mental health conditions as a whole.
The ACA also requires all individuals to have health insurance or else they could face tax penalties. This further expanded a number of people getting access to comprehensive addiction and mental health treatment.
One of the most powerful sections of the ACA was a massive Medicaid expansion. ObamaCare provided more funding to state’s Medicaid programs, which in turn insured nearly 3 million people suffering from addiction nationwide.
How Harmful is The Senate Bill?
The United States is in the midst of an opioid addiction crisis. The death toll of drug overdoses is inching closer to the leading preventable cause of death. In fact, drug overdose deaths increased nearly 20% from 2015 to 2016. In response to this crisis, even more funding should be allocated to addiction treatment and healthcare. Instead, the new Senate bill will do just the opposite. It will cause the country to backtrack on the advancements that have been made in health coverage and only add fuel to the fire.
The Senate bill, titled the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), has several sections that will be devastating for those suffering from addiction. These 2 key sections will strip health coverage from millions:
No Essential Health Benefits
Under the BCRA there are no Essential Health Benefits. This means that insurance providers are given the option to include mental health and addiction treatment benefits under their standard plans. This means the 30% of people who gained comprehensive coverage under ObamaCare will likely go back to the most basic coverage. If they develop an addiction or already have a history of addiction, it will be very hard to gain coverage because they have a “pre-existing condition.”
The Congressional Budget Office predicts that if Essential Health Benefits are stripped from the law, out-of-pocket insurance payers’ premiums will rise thousands of dollars. This will most certainly leave people seeking cheaper insurance with lesser quality. The president-elect of the American Society of Addiction Medicine stated that “the Senate bill would move us back to a time when even those with insurance can’t access medically necessary addiction treatment services”
Medicaid roll-back and payment caps
Those who gained coverage from the Medicaid expansion could very well lose their coverage. Additionally, fewer applicants will be accepted. The BCRA includes a cap on federal spending for Medicaid and eliminated the expansion under ObamaCare.
Dr. Kelly Clark, president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, said in regards to the BCRA, “ASAM is deeply concerned about what will happen to the 2.8 million Americans with a substance use disorder who gained coverage for the first time under the Medicaid expansion.” She went on to mention that “We’ve seen the death toll from the opioid epidemic rise year after year; cutting access to treatment now will be a death sentence for too many more Americans.”
MORE Funding Is Needed
With the current opioid problem in America, the last thing the country needs is Medicaid restriction and weaker health coverage. The more people that lose access to addiction treatment, the more the problem will spread. ObamaCare provides an avenue for people to not only gain health insurance but health insurance that actually provides benefits for the help they need.
Insurance in-name-only might increase the number of those “insured” at a cheaper price, but it will do little to address the underlying causes of addiction and help people recover. Those suffering from addiction and/or mental health need comprehensive treatment which is simply too expensive to pay for out-of-pocket. If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction or mental health, call your local Senator and bring up these concerns.
Seeking Treatment for Alcoholism and Addiction
If you or a loved one has a problem with alcoholism or addiction and want to experience recovery in a thriving community with lots of people just like you, then call the professionals at Stout Street today at 866-722-7040. Our trained staff is standing by to take your call and help you in any way we can. We know how difficult of a decision this can be and we know what it takes to ensure you find your own personal path in recovery. You no longer have to do it alone, so give us a call today and find the happy and sober life you’ve always dreamed of.