As people across the country gear up for Recovery Month in September, many people are especially thankful for their recovery and the people who helped them through it. There are many people in our country, however, who are not getting the treatment they need, either because of feelings of shame or because they do not have the insurance coverage for the treatment.
The Need for Coverage
According to SAMHSA’s 2009 Survey on Drug Use and Health: Less than 10 percent of people with substance use disorders receive treatment, at a societal cost of over $300 billion annually. (1) Part of the reason for this is that many people lack insurance or are underinsured. Approximately 22 percent of adults with substance use and/or mental disorders were uninsured, and one in three had incomes below the Federal Poverty Level. (1) As we work to create awareness for the benefits of treatment and the possibilities of recovery, we are seeing the government also working through legislation to make treatment a reality for more people.
The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) evens out coverage for those with a mental illness or addiction problem. The new law improves on a 1996 law which stated that anyone offering mental health coverage and medical coverage must offer the same level and quality of benefits for both types of services. The MHPAEA of today also prohibits insurance companies from imposing cost sharing or limiting the allowable coverage on mental health treatment any more than on other medical procedures.
Mental Health Disorders and Substance Abuse
As we study substance abuse addiction and mental health disorders, we learn more about why these things occur. We now know that there are biological reasons for some people to suffer from addiction or a mental illness. We also have found many effective ways to treat someone with a mental health disorder. As we work to de-stigmatize mental health problems and addictions and are able to offer better treatment, more people will want to make use of these benefits. “Illness of the brain must be treated just like illness anywhere else in the body,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California. (2)
While there is some opposition about mandating coverage for every mental illness, many people are supportive of MHPAEA. “I have a mental illness, and I am fortunately getting the best care this country has to offer because I am a member of Congress,” said Representative Patrick J. Kennedy. Representative Jim Ramstad of Minnesota, a recovering alcoholic, is also benefitting from recovery, “I am living proof that treatment works and recovery is real.” (2)
Treatment does work, and it does save a great deal of money in the long run. For every $1 invested in treatment, taxpayers save at least $7.46 in costs to society. (1) We need to continue our focus of recovery and work toward providing effective treatment to all who need it.