ID 2051978 © Iofoto | Dreamstime.com
Source: ID 2051978 © Iofoto | Dreamstime.com

The GOP’s devastating “healthcare” bill that passed the House last week will have one certain outcome; if signed into law, it will kill Americans.

Among the first to feel the law’s impact will be those who suffer from substance abuse or mental illness. The impact will be significant. Last year, more than 50,000 Americans died from accidental overdose and approximately half of those with a substance abuse problem have a co-occurring mental illness. Wait times for beds in treatment centers can be months, meaning that people die waiting for treatment. Every state and community has been affected by substance abuse. In fact, not only does substance abuse cause the loss of $520 billion a year, it is also arguably the nation’s #1 health concern.

There are laws on the books that are intended to help addicts. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act is designed to mandate that insurers treat mental illness and substance abuse on par with physical disorders. The bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, passed late in 2016, would provide funding for substance abuse treatment, if it was fully funded. The new healthcare legislation passed in the House will undercut and abandon these efforts to improve addiction treatment and mental health services in this country.

Having sought any kind of mental health counseling in the past, under the GOP bill, puts you in the category of having a pre-existing condition. If you have a lapse in medical insurance coverage, as many addicts do, you would be uninsured and uninsurable outside a high risk health pool – and let’s be real – how many addicts do you know who can afford premiums in a high risk health pool? Those who are eligible for Medicaid will find that program shrinking with block grant funding. In short, addicts simply will not have access to treatment.

As the number of addicts able to afford addiction treatment shrinks, the number of treatment centers will also decrease. Insurance already does not treat to outcomes, but pays for a specific number of days in treatment, forcing addicts to leave treatment prematurely, which promotes relapse. It is likely too that insurers will be able to opt out of covering addiction treatment at all, if the bill that passed the House were to be implemented as is. In a nation already experiencing a treatment shortage, you will see more and more treatment centers close their doors as addicts are unable to afford these services. Only the very wealthy will have access to care.

What treatment can you get if you have no insurance and no money? Community-based 12 step programs are the only no cost option. They have a success rate estimated to be about 5%, among the lowest of any form of treatment.

The only true improvement on the ACA that can be made is to repeal it in favor of a single payer system. Everyone’s in. Everyone gets treatment for whatever condition they have. The costs are spread out between all citizens and business wins with healthier workers and more limited medical expenses.

Healthy citizens are what would make America greater than it already is.

About the Authors

Richard Taite

Richard Taite is the CEO and founder of the Cliffside Malibu Treatment Center in Malibu, California and co-author of the book Ending Addiction for Good.

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