Paying for Rehab Is Possible in US

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

Finding one you can afford? Perception is that can be considerably more difficult.

There are 15,496 centers in the United States, ready to treat the estimated 22.7 million Americans who have illicit drug or alcohol problems, according the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a branch of the federal government’s Health and Human Services Department.

For many addicts and their families, there is a perception that treatment centers are too costly in terms of time and money. That comes from news stories about celebrities checking in at expensive treatment facilities in resort-like settings for 30- to 90-day treatments that could cost more than $1,000 a day.

The mental picture people take from that is clear: I can’t afford that. I’ll be in debt the rest of my life!

That is why the cost of treatment is the primary reason only 2.5 million (10.9 percent) of those with drug or alcohol problems enroll in drug rehab centers.

“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.”

“And cost alone is not necessarily a determining factor in how effective a treatment program will be,” added Dr. Kimberly Jeffries Leonard, deputy director at SAMHSA. “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, there are levels of affordability for drug treatment centers and resources people can tap to pay for them.

Among the choices are

  • Private and public health insurance, including Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act
  • Bank loans, including healthcare specific lenders
  • Credit cards
  • Drug rehab scholarships

There is likely to be some out-of-pocket costs for all the payment options, but those costs have to be weighed against the financial gain realized when a patient 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 have the same boundaries (co-pays, deductibles, visit limits, etc.) for drug abuse treatment that exist for medical and surgical benefits.

In other words, if you have private health insurance or are insured under the Affordable Care Act, it should cover a trip to a drug abuse treatment center the same way 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 being offered at between six and 10 percent, which typically would be lower than the rates on 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 drug abuse. 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, that average interest rate on credit cards is 17.24 percent. Not being able 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. Also, not all rehab centers accept Medicaid.

The ultimate funding solution would be to qualify for a drug rehab scholarship, with a charitable foundation or the state putting up the money for treatment. However, those who run treatment facilities admit that waiting for this is a long-shot solution 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.”

“I would say we receive an average of 3 to 4 phone calls a day from people who would like information on how they could 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 indicate for drug rehabilitation.

Starting in June, the police department in Gloucester offered residents who are drug addicts an amnesty program that includes treatment. Addicts who show up at the police department and hand over their drugs and paraphernalia won’t be charged with a crime.

Instead, they will be sent to a treatment center, along with a police volunteer who will sit with them until they are safely enrolled in a program. The program is paid for by private insurance or public funds.

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

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