Health care changes mean coverage for substance abuse treatment

Published: Jun. 5, 2013 at 10:38 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 5, 2013 at 10:39 PM EDT
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(FOX19) - Changes in the federal health care overhaul means insurance companies will have to pay for alcohol and drug addiction treatment, beginning 2014.

There is an unfulfilled need for alcohol and addiction treatment services in the Tri-State. In fact, it's estimated that an addict dies every other day in Hamilton County from an overdose.

As a result, facilities like the Outpatient Treatment Center at Bethesda North Hospital may find themselves with many more patients come next year.

The move is being applauded by local addiction service providers. Mark Davis, Bethesda North Alcohol and Drug Treatment Manager says the changes are long overdue.

"I think that's a necessary step because alcohol and drug problems are a major concern in the community," said Davis.

Frequently, addicts like Kristen Stine run into problems with their insurance providers.

"The first time that I attempted to get sober, I tried to go to a detox facility and my insurance company would only pay for 72 hours," she explained.

Three days is not nearly enough time for someone trying to recover from a methadone addiction.

Anita Prater, Director of Brighton Recovery Center for Women in Florence says, "Addiction and alcoholism is such a complicated disease that people still don't understand it as a medical disease, and it's about time it continues to be treated that way."

Ann Barnum with the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati explained providers of addictions services will see some changes.

"The agencies will now be able to get payment for individuals who previously had services that were not paid for," said Barnum.

Some believe it may be difficult to meet the greater demand for services, like President Margo Spence of First Step Home in Walnut Hills.

"Our capacity to serve the clients, that's going to be a challenge for many of us in the Cincinnati area," she conveyed.

With demand for addiction services expected to increase, Prater says she has some concerns about businesses entering the field.

"If it's not run with an addictionologist... If it's not run in conjunction with a 12-step recovery program and recovery groups and sponsors, I think it can become a money maker and a sham program," said Prater.

Many hope that changes in the federal health care law will make treatment become available to more people who need it.

FOX19 reached out to Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which is our health insurance provider, to find out how they feel about the changes. They were unavailable for comment.

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