Addiction Treatment: Expanded Access or Dramatic Cuts?

Monica Villarreal, CPPP staff, Hogg Mental Health Policy Fellow

Heroin and prescription drug addiction in the U.S. has skyrocketed over the past 25 years. Millions of people across the country are struggling to access needed substance use disorder (SUD) treatment services and are unable to recover.

On May 17, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Rob Portman (R-OH), Sharon Brown (D-OH), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Angus King (I-ME), and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the Medicaid Coverage for Addiction Recovery Expansion (Medicaid CARE) Act. The bill aims to expand access to SUD treatment services for U.S. adults on Medicaid. The proposal aims to increase addiction treatment services to help combat the heroin and prescription drug epidemic by modifying a long-standing Medicaid policy that limits coverage of mental health services that are longer term and involve (room–and-board) component.

Today, only a very small percentage of adults who need SUD treatment services actually have access to them through Medicaid in Texas.

The 31 states that have already created coverage for their poor and near-poor adults are seeing improvements in SUD recovery, and stand to do even better under the Medicaid CARE Act. Meanwhile, in Texas, the lack of a Medicaid coverage option for virtually all adults who are not already fully disabled would limit the beneficial impact of the bill.

While the Medicaid CARE Act has the potential to significantly improve access to SUD treatment, it cannot do that if the Medicaid program itself is hobbled by draconian cuts contained in the ACA repeal bill, or the even deeper Medicaid cuts proposed in the President’s budget.

Click here to read more about the Medicaid CARE Act, the ACA, and Congress’ current debate over ACA repeal and Medicaid cuts.

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