Opioid addiction currently affects 6 million people in the U.S., according to a recent report, far more than previously estimated. Last year, more than 72,000 people died from drug overdoses, a great many of these from opioids. Alcohol addiction affects and kills even more people every year than drugs.
But even when people want help for their addiction to opioids or alcohol, many wonder if they can afford treatment. Sometimes, the belief that treatment is beyond their financial means stops people from seeking any help at all.
For people with Medicare, Medicaid or commercial insurance, some kind of addiction treatment is usually available at little to no cost. Even if a patient doesn’t have any coverage, many responsible providers will try to find solutions so that no one who needs treatment is turned away.
At CleanSlate Centers, we work with patients to find solutions so that costs don't stand in the way of treatment. Here are some common questions that we encounter about the affordability of addiction treatment:
Q: Isn’t addiction treatment expensive?
A: It can be, but it all depends on the type of addiction treatment we’re talking about. People often equate addiction treatment with residential programs, many of which are beautiful resort-type facilities in destination locales, or with in-patient treatment, which is typically shorter in duration and more medically intense than residential programs. Many residential programs are known to not accept insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. For in-patient treatment, more programs do accept government and private insurance. While residential and in-patient treatment can be useful alternatives for some people, not everyone needs these approaches as a part of his/her recovery.
Q: Which addiction treatment is low-cost or free?
A: Outpatient medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is far less expensive than residential or in-patient treatment and is often covered by commercial insurance, Medicare and Medicaid. An increasing number of quality providers who treat patients with MAT will accept not only commercial insurance but Medicare or Medicaid as well. With Medicare or Medicaid coverage, outpatient MAT is usually free to patients. With many commercial insurances, outpatient MAT is covered when it's delivered by an in-network provider, but patients might have a co-pay similar to what they'd experience with any doctor’s appointment.
Q: What does medication-assisted treatment involve?
A: Medication-assisted treatment involves the use of FDA-approved medications for addiction, including buprenorphine (Suboxone), naltrexone (Vivitrol) and methadone. These medications reduce cravings and the probability of relapse, and can be an affordable and effective path to recovery. MAT also includes psycho-social support, counseling and/or coordination with other support services to help patients with additional parts of their recovery.
Q: What about detox?
A: Many people suffering from addiction think that all they need is a visit to a detox facility. While detox treatment is often covered by government or commercial insurance, this should be viewed as an initial step in a longer process of recovery. Experts recommend that most patients who complete an in-patient detox program be discharged immediately to a maintenance MAT program upon their release.
Q: If MAT costs less, doesn’t that mean it will be less effective than more expensive forms of addiction treatment?
A: When it comes to MAT, less is more. Unlike residential or in-patient treatment, MAT can be managed on a convenient outpatient basis right in your neighborhood, just like a standard doctor’s visit, while still providing the highest quality and most-evidence based form of treatment. In fact, for the majority of people with a primary diagnosis of opioid use disorder (OUD), the most appropriate kind of care, as determined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), is outpatient MAT.
Q: What if I don’t have insurance?
A: Patients who don’t have commercial insurance or Medicare may qualify for Medicaid; explore this option first. If you don’t qualify for Medicaid, there may be safety net resources available to subsidize your addiction treatment, especially MAT. This could include support through state-funded addiction treatment programs, locally funded addiction treatment programs, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grants, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, or the Affordable Care Act. Start by contacting your Single State Agency for Substance Abuse Services or your County Department of Public Health to find out what emergency resources might be available in your area to help you get the treatment you need.
Q: Can I pay for MAT with cash?
A: Some providers will accept cash instead of requiring insurance, and if that is the only option for you then MAT is still a relatively low-cost alternative. The out of pocket expenses for a patient will vary according to the provider. If these costs are prohibitive for you, there are public assistance programs that can help cover the expenses for MAT. While many quality MAT providers may accept cash, there are unfortunately too many providers who will accept only cash, often at exorbitant rates, and provide limited services beyond simply writing a prescription. When evaluating a potential MAT program, you should look for a provider who offers regular visits, individualized treatment plans, and care coordination services to assist you in accessing any other care that you might need.
Q: What if I’m not sure about my insurance coverage or how to pay for treatment?
A: At CleanSlate, we believe the first job of people seeking recovery is simply to contact us. Our staff guides people on the nuances of insurance and payment options so that getting started is as painless as possible. We work closely with insurance providers to ensure that our patients get the maximum coverage for their treatment, and we handle all of the billing. We will do everything possible to help patients without insurance find some kind of financial support so that they can be treated without suffering economic hardship.
If you or a loved one need help, call CleanSlate Centers for an appointment or walk in today. Go to www.cleanslatecenters.com and find the center nearest to you. Do not let concerns about costs stop you from seeking help.
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