Addiction Treatment is Life or Death for Some and Life-Changing for Many – There’s Another Side to the Addiction Treatment Story
In California, thousands of organizations offer addiction treatment that is critical to the lives of those who suffer from substance abuse problems. Regardless, media reports on the addiction treatment industry are unbalanced, tending to question the charges billed by service providers while lacking focus on the reimbursement amounts paid by insurance companies.
The paucity of coverage does not reflect the volume of life-saving care provided by these treatment organizations. Instead, the media chooses to sensationalize substance abuse treatment by honing in on unethical behaviors within the addiction treatment industry. This approach perpetuates the public’s misconception that the addiction treatment industry consists of dubious organizations that engage in fraudulent billing and dishonest marketing practices. Although unscrupulous addiction treatment facilities exist, these few organizations do not accurately represent the entire industry; ethical nonprofit and for-profit facilities greatly outnumber corrupt organizations.
Mental health and addiction treatment providers are often grossly underpaid by insurance companies, causing many organizations that act as a positive force in communities to close their doors to patients in need of care. It is typical for insurance companies to significantly slash reimbursements, directly send unrecoverable payments to patients and generally underpay for services rendered.
Billing and reimbursement figures are never equivalent. The media needs to shift its focus toward insurance reimbursements versus provider billing amounts. Although news reports quote the average Blue Cross of California’s reimbursement for residential treatment to be more than $3,000 a day, this insurance provider actual pays out a mere $425 per day, which does not come close to covering the operating costs of a six-bed for-profit rehabilitation center.
Since the minimum standards set by the Department of Healthcare Services play a large role in cost structures of addiction treatment facilities in California, it is crucial that the public learns more about the agency’s licensing requirements. To progress its advocacy goals, the Addiction Treatment Advocacy Coalition conducted a financial analysis that breaks down the costs associated with successfully running medium-level treatment facilities. ATAC’s president Stampp Corbin expresses a strong desire to disclose this report to any interested party.
Addiction treatment facilities are also being driven out by private citizens of Orange County, California who are vehemently opposed to having these facilities in their neighborhoods. This attitude creates the quandary of where to place the centers. Is it acceptable for the several hundred thousand addiction sufferers who reside in Orange County to travel to San Diego County, Riverside or Compton to seek help?
Social responsibility demands that each county and city should provide sufficient addiction treatment to those who live and work within those communities.