Is the Affordable Care Act Helping Alcoholics and Addicts?

Is the Affordable Care Act Helping Alcoholics and Addicts

The Affordable Care Act, sometimes colloquially referred to as Obamacare, has decreased the number of uninsured individuals in the United States. More people are now covered by Medicaid than ever before. Is that benefit being felt by people suffering from alcoholism and other substance use disorders? I felt that this was an important topic to cover, and the state of South Carolina and the National Institute of Health recently completed a study on insurance coverage and drug rehabilitation. As always, if you or a loved one is looking for information on the best alcohol rehabs in Florida, or the best alcohol and drug rehabs anywhere, please visit for more information. 

The authors of the South Carolina study, which was published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, focused in on the major shifts in insurance coverage that have happened since the Affordable Care Act, and how those shifts have or have not affected alcohol and drug abuse treatment access. They report that a total of more than 12 million people who were previously not covered by any medical insurance were covered by Medicaid after the ACA took effect. New requirements also went into effect that was meant to cause parity among insurance coverages under Medicaid, in other words, they wanted everyone to have similar benefits. Behavioral and mental health services were a key focus of these parity requirements, according to this study, and in theory that would include substance use disorder treatment. Regardless of the intent, it now appears that there is little evidence suggesting that the ACA has lowered the number of previously uninsured people in substance abuse clinics nationwide. I should also say that I know from my own experience in this field that many of the best alcohol rehabs in Florida and elsewhere limit the numbers of Medicaid patients that they serve at any given time for financial reasons. To quote one of the most important sections from the abstract of the study, 

“Medicaid expansion was associated with a 15.7-point increase in the percentage of patients insured by Medicaid in substance use disorder treatment programs and a 13.7-point decrease in the percentage uninsured. Restrictions in state Medicaid benefits and utilization policies were associated with a decreased percentage of Medicaid patients in treatment.”

The authors go on from there, stating that Medicaid expansion in the United States has not been associated with an increase in clients served over the period of time since the ACA took effect. Their data seems to suggest, at least to me, that Medicaid plays an increasingly critical role in the national health care snapshot, but that without some changes the ACA will not ultimately be helping people with alcoholism and other substance abuse issues as much as it helps those patients suffering from other ailments. That is, of course, only my reading of the data. I know that families searching for answers, trying to find treatment options at the best alcohol and drug rehabs in Florida, should always look to places like for more information while understanding that health care and insurance coverage will always be an important part of the conversation under our current American system. Surely the many millions of people now insured by the Affordable Care Act have been helped, but hopefully, in the future we see some changes that might make the system more effective for the treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction in general. 

By Tim Cannon 



“Medicaid coverage in substance use disorder treatment after the affordable care act.” Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, Volume 102, July 2019, Pages 1-7. Retrieved from