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Alcohol and Drug Screening Necessary for Preventive Care

Recent nationwide concern over the upcoming healthcare reform has many wondering about important potential changes that will affect them personally. A large topic of debate has centered on whether or not Medicare/Medicaid should include alcohol and drug screening and prevention services under the new reform. While necessary budget cuts make a large inclusion such as alcohol and drug screening and other addiction services seem like an impossible venture, the possibility of saving money, and assisting so many in overcoming addiction, must be considered. The CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have opened a forum for Americans to voice their opinions on whether prevention services should be included. If the National Coverage Analysis, as the open forum is called, determines there is a sufficient want and need for these services, it is likely that alcohol and drug screening and counseling services will be included under the preventive care umbrella of Medicare/Medicaid.

While many are concerned that the inclusion of addiction support services will greatly increase the monetary problems that government agencies like CMS are facing, the long-term effects of these inclusions will actually greatly improve the effectiveness of overcoming addiction, and therefore the initial cost increase will benefit these agencies. By making prevention services available to those who previously could not afford these services on their own without the aid of insurance, the potential healthcare costs, including hospital visits, rehabilitation, and other miscellaneous costs, will greatly decrease, or could even potentially be avoided. Many Americans are upset that their tax dollars are used to fund programs like Medicaid, yet including prevention services into the program outline has the potential to save millions of dollars, not to mention millions of lives. By eliminating the financial barrier that so many people have in not being able to afford proper addiction support, it would be possible to halt many degenerative diseases, like alcoholism, from affecting so many lives, including those of family members.

Clearly, more important than the monetary advantages, are the numerous benefits to the overall health of the country. Dr. Kima Joy Taylor, director of the CATG (Closing the Addiction Treatment Gap) initiative, discussed the importance of adding addiction support to Medicare/Medicaid in the hopes of helping more people overcoming addiction.

“Drug use is on the rise in this country and 23.5 million Americans are addicted to alcohol and drugs. That’s approximately one in every ten Americans over the age of twelve – roughly equal to the entire population of Texas. But only eleven percent of those with an addiction receive treatment. It is staggering and unacceptable that so many Americans are living with an untreated chronic disease and cannot access treatment.”

The statistics are staggering, and show the extreme need for these types of intervention services. What is even more astounding is the manner in which many people currently seek addiction support in order to deal with their looming health concerns. Less than seven percent of individuals that have received assistance with overcoming addiction were referred by their health care practitioner. In contrast, more than two-thirds of people receiving addiction support services sought help on their own accord, or were mandated by the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, due to lack of financial ability or health provider recommendation, the first time that many people seek or receive any kind of help in overcoming addiction is through the court system due to illegal activities. It is likely that increasing the availability of such services, as well as reducing the financial barrier between those in need and the appropriate health care providers, would serve to deter many future and current criminals from continuing their self-destructive paths, allowing them to receive the help they so desperately need.

“Our society and our health care system have been slow to recognize and respond to addiction as a chronic, but treatable, condition. While change doesn’t happen overnight, if health care reform is implemented properly, millions of Americans will finally have insurance coverage for addiction treatment. This is an historic step toward a comprehensive, integrated approach to health care that includes treatment of addiction,” stated Dr. Taylor.

The upcoming reform would allow the greatest opportunity possible to make a difference in the lives of those suffering from addiction, and those seeking addiction support services without the financial means to make overcoming addiction a possibility. Addiction treatment is an essential part of health care, and if CMS does mandate drug and alcohol screening to be included as part of the services offered under their care, it could potentially change the lives of millions of Americans for the better.

Vista Taos Renewal Center, located in New Mexico, can assist you or your loved one by providing a high level of addiction support. Contact the caring staff at Vista Taos to discuss your options for starting the journey to overcoming addiction.

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