People seeking treatment for addiction face a number of obstacles, including problems getting insurance coverage, a shortage of trained health providers and low quality of care, experts tell USA Today.
Kelly Clark, President-Elect of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, says many insurance plans limit the doses of the opioid treatment buprenorphine that patients can receive, or the length of time patients can receive it. She notes studies show people with private insurance are three to six times less likely to receive addiction treatment, compared with people covered by public insurance, such as Medicaid.
Many doctors have little or no training in treating addiction, according to Emily Feinstein, Director of Health Law and Policy at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. She says some doctors are uncomfortable with patients who are dealing with addiction, while others would like to treat addiction, but face low insurance reimbursement rates if they do so.
Many addiction treatment programs use unproven treatments, Feinstein says. In a 2012 report, her organization found “only a small fraction of individuals receive interventions or treatments consistent with scientific knowledge about what works.” Addiction treatment is often provided by counselors who do not have medical training, she said. Some states do not require addiction counselors to have a high school diploma, Feinstein added.
In March the Obama Administration announced a new plan to fight opioid addiction, which includes expanding treatment with addiction medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Several legislators have introduced legislation that would expand addiction treatment.