Paying for Rehab Is Possible in US

Finding a drug rehab treatment center in the United States is easy.

Finding one you can afford? Most people believe that is considerably more difficult.

There are more than 15,000 centers in the country ready to treat the estimated 22.7 million Americans who have drug or alcohol use disorders, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of the federal government’s Health and Human Services Department.

Many people who need treatment are discouraged by news stories about celebrities checking in at luxury facilities for 30- to 90-day treatment programs that could cost more than $1,000 a day. The misconception that this is the norm resulted in only 10.9 percent of those with drug or alcohol problems seeking professional help in 2015.

“Cost is definitely a factor in someone’s decision to enroll in a treatment program,” Dr. Glenn Most, executive director at Exempla West Pines Rehabilitation Center in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, said. “Our clients work, they have families to support so they definitely ask about cost when exploring their options and make a decision based on whether they can afford it.”

Dr. Kimberly Jeffries Leonard, deputy director at SAMHSA, emphasized the need for treatment that has more to do with the person than the price tag.

“Cost alone is not necessarily a determining factor in how effective a treatment program will be,” she said. “Our goal is to ensure that those who need treatment have access to effective programs that offer a continuum of services to facilitate successful recovery.”

Several Payment Options

Like every product and service in the economy, drug treatment centers offer various pricing and payment options for different levels of care.

Payment options for rehab include:

  • Private and public health insurance
  • Bank loans, including health care specific lenders
  • Credit cards
  • Drug rehab scholarships

There is likely to be some out-of-pocket costs for each payment option, but those costs must be weighed against the financial gain realized when a client stops spending money on drugs or alcohol.

Health insurance plans, including the government-sponsored Affordable Care Act, are the source of payment most often used. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 requires group health plans to offer the same cost-sharing requirements, treatment limits, and benefits — including copays, deductibles and number of visits allowed — for addiction treatment that exist for medical and surgical procedures.

In other words, if you have private health insurance or are insured under the Affordable Care Act, it should cover a stay in rehab the same as it covers a visit to your family doctor.

SAMHSA surveys indicate that personal savings or contributions from family members are the second most popular way to pay for treatment. The problem here is that costs can quickly deplete bank accounts and there could be considerable debt, especially if the patient suffers a relapse.

If you need to stretch payments out over time, a personal loan from a local bank is an option. Interest rates vary with some as low as between six and 10 percent, which is lower than the rate for most credit cards. If you own a home and are willing to use that as collateral, it’s possible you could get a home equity loan or home equity line of credit with even better rates.

Health care-specific lending is the newest option available. There are lending agencies that cater to specific health care-related treatment, including substance use disorders. Interest rates depend on the applicant’s credit score and the length of time needed for repayment. The rates start at 5.99 percent.

Credit Cards Can Help

If those options don’t work, paying with a credit card could be a solution, especially if you carry a zero- or low-interest credit card. Unfortunately, the average interest rate on credit cards is 17.24 percent. Your inability to pay off the balance each month will add considerably to how much rehab costs.

People from low-income families could get help from the government through Medicaid. The coverage varies by state and often requires a doctor’s diagnosis stating treatment is medically necessary. Copays are common, and not all rehab centers accept Medicaid.

Qualifying for a drug rehab scholarship would be the ultimate funding solution. These scholarships are typically provided by charitable foundations or other organizations. However, those who run treatment facilities admit that being awarded a scholarship is a long-shot at best.

“We have 30 people in our program, and if I had enough scholarships available, we could have 1,030,” Andrew Sossin, co-founder of Recovery Unplugged Treatment Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said. “We try to make two scholarships available each month, but it depends on bed availability and whether the applicant is ready that day. It’s a very tough situation for treatment centers to be in.”

Dr. Most concurs.

“I would say we receive an average of 3 to 4 phone calls a day from people who would like information on how they can get a drug rehab scholarship,” Dr. Most said. “Unfortunately, we only have space for about 24 scholarship people a year, and they aren’t full scholarships. We try to meet people halfway on the costs. If people have a little ‘skin in the game’ so to speak, they tend to be more responsible about their participation in our program.”

… Or, You Could Move To Gloucester

There is one other option that is not really practical for people outside of Gloucester, Massachusetts, but still is interesting in what it may mean for the future of drug rehabilitation.

The police department in Gloucester now offers an amnesty program that includes treatment to addicted residents. Those who show up at the police department and hand over their drugs and paraphernalia are not charged with a crime.

Instead, a police volunteer accompanies them to a rehab facility. The volunteer remains with them until they are safely enrolled in a treatment program, which is paid for by private insurance or public funds.

Gloucester police use funds from drug forfeitures to pay for the overdose reversal drug Narcan for addicts without insurance. The department has met with state and federal officials about expanding the program, using more forfeiture dollars for treatment.

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