New Report Finds Only Four States Provided Adequate Coverage for Addiction Treatment in 2017

Gaps in Insurance Coverage Make Addiction Care Inaccessible and Unaffordable

NEW YORK – March 26, 2019 – A new report released today by Center on Addiction – a nonprofit committed to transforming the way the nation addresses addiction – reveals that in 2017 insurance plans did not cover the necessary services for people with substance use disorder (SUD). This comprehensive review examines the addiction benefits offered in plans sold across the country in 2017. These plans are required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to cover SUD benefits as an Essential Health Benefit (EHB). The new report builds upon a 2016 report in which Center on Addiction examined each state’s EHB Benchmark Plan – the plans selected by each state to determine which addiction benefits must be covered by the ACA Plans sold in that state.

In Uncovering Coverage Gaps II: A Review and Comparison of Addiction Benefits in ACA Plans, Center on Addiction found that more than half of U.S. states offered a plan in 2017 that did not comply with the ACA’s requirements to cover SUD benefits. The report also found that 20 percent of states offered a plan that violated the Parity Act, a federal law that requires insurance plans to pay for addiction treatment the same way they cover treatment for other chronic diseases, like diabetes or cancer. In comparing ACA Plans sold in 2017 to the EHB Benchmark Plans, the report found continued non-compliance with the ACA and inadequate coverage of benefits in the majority of states. Parity compliance was virtually unchanged, and nearly all plan documents still lack transparent and specific information about SUD benefits.

“Amid a national opioid crisis and public outcry for more treatment, we’d expect to see greater improvements in insurance coverage for addiction benefits,” said Lindsey Vuolo, JD, MPH, the director of health law and policy at Center on Addiction, and lead author of the report. “We need to use all tools at our disposal, including laws that prohibit discriminatory insurance practices, so more people receive affordable care. We are calling on states to ensure health plans cover the full range of effective addiction treatments and address the serious gaps identified in this report. Improving insurance coverage for addiction treatment is essential to resolving the opioid crisis.”

Key findings and highlights from the report include:

“Most people cannot afford addiction treatment unless their insurance plan covers it. Families need to understand they often have the right to insurance coverage – this knowledge can be lifesaving,” said Creighton Drury, JD, the CEO of Center on Addiction. “Health insurance executives and government leaders need to understand that failing to provide insurance coverage for addiction treatment is causing profound heartache and unnecessary loss of lives in our nation. Our report is part of our ongoing effort to call on leaders to take the moral and legal action that is required to address our nation’s addiction crisis.”

This is the first report released by Center on Addiction since merging with Partnership for Drug-Free Kids earlier this year. Uncovering Coverage Gaps II: A Review and Comparison of Addiction Benefits in ACA Plans is available for download and can be found on our website here.

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