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Why health coverage alone won’t solve addiction

Dan Gorenstein May 5, 2015
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Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, millions more Americans now have insurance that will cover addiction treatment, with spending on addiction treatment expected to almost double by 2020. 

But a new report in the journal Health Affairs finds that despite newfound access, many facilities lack the capacity to take on new clients. Even with expanded access, University of South Carolina’s Christina Andrews says that coverage alone isn’t getting many new patients in the door.

The reality is it’s going to take years. And we have people right now who have great need,” she says.

Andrews says half of the programs around the country don’t meet basic insurance company requirements.

And as of 2012, 63 percent lacked the health IT they need to communicate with doctors and hospitals. These program will eventually grow, it’s just probably not from an investment at the state level, says Henrick Harwood, with National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors.

“Remember that providers are businesses like any other. They are responsible for making their own investments,” Harwood says.

He says given how political Obamacare remains, state spending is a long shot. But given the billions in new money that is available, there’s reason to think someone will find a way to expand treatment and make a bunch of money.

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