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2014 to Bring More Treatment Opportunities

As the Affordable Care Act (aka: Obamacare) kicks in, there’s a side effect of the change in coverage now available to Americans - the increased availability of treatment services for drug and alcohol abuse. As qualifying health insurance policies come online next year, we can expect more people who need treatment to seek it out. In Montana, this means more substance abusers will be able to afford rehab or outpatient services.

According to the Missoulian, more than 10,000 Montana residents will be newly eligible for services with an additional ten thousand added if Montana expands Medicaid services under Obamacare. States have the option to increase health coverage, including substance abuse treatment, by using matching funds from the federal government. At first glance, this is great. It allows those who need care to get it. Except, our mental health system is already overtaxed. At current capacity, treatment centers will be unable to meet the new demand.

The problem, although certainly real, may not be catastrophic for two reasons. The first is that some addicts and alcoholics will simply shift from paying out-of-pocket (or from getting state money) over to the new insurance coverage. Those patients won’t increase the total number treated, just who pays the bill. The second reason is that it will take some time before new patients seek out treatment.

The latter prediction comes from Massachusetts data – the only state to have instituted their own version of the Affordable Care Act. In that state, the situation was similar several years ago. It took some time, a delay of several years, for eligible people to start taking advantage of the new insurance there.

According to the report, there is currently more than a month’s wait for a bed at in-patient treatment facilities in our state. That wait can only increase unless new facilities are brought online soon.

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