The Herald Bulletin

May 1, 2013

Editorial: More will be eligible for addiction treatment

— Obamacare, like it or not, is going to revolutionize health care in the United States simply because many more people will become eligible for coverage. Among those will be addicts who, in the past, have been on the lower end of receiving health care benefits for treatment.

According to an Associated Press report, only 1 percent of every health care dollar goes to addiction and few alcoholics and drug addicts get treatment. That’s about to change, When Obamacare kicks in on Jan. 1, 2014, another 3 million to 5 million people will be eligible for insurance coverage depending on how many states decide to expand their Medicaid programs.

This is encouraging news for addicts. In the past, they’ve been relegated to throwing off the monkey by cold-turkey withdrawals and social agencies like Alcoholics Anonymous. The addicts have been on their own, usually ostracized by society as having brought on their woes themselves. That stigma is changing, too, and the drafters of the Affordable Care Act had the foresight to realize that addicts are in pain and addiction is a health issue.

Finally, said Stephen McCaffrey, president of Mental Health America Indiana, addiction will be treated as the physical disease it is.

In Indiana, Fairbanks, an Indianapolis-based addiction treatment center, is adding outpatient sites in Kokomo and Plainfield. A spokesman for Fairbanks said not all eligible addicts will seek treatment right away, and it will take time for everyone who needs the help to learn the help is available.

Fairbanks has the right idea by getting out in front of this. Others are following suit.

Addiction leads to physical deterioration, mental health issues, homelessness, loss of jobs and families, suicides and last, but far from least, prison sentences. It’s hard to believe there hasn’t been a more comprehensive plan to combat the ills of addiction. Obamacare will bring this hidden disease into the open and greatly increase coverage.

This is overdue, but it will be easy to overlook if Gov. Mike Pence decides not to expand Medicaid. The road to enlightened treatment will be stuck on square one. The means are there to combat addiction, and Indiana needs to take advantage of those to help its addicted Hoosiers.