The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that over 20 million Americans are burdened with issues associated with a substance use disorder or some other type of addictive behavior. Only a very small proportion actually get treatment, and nearly two-fifths of all these individuals are unable to afford treatment. While insurance and other means can offset the cost of care for many, there are also available programs that are essentially free or very inexpensive.
There are various low-cost or free treatment and support options for those struggling with alcohol abuse.
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): AA has a long history of helping individuals with alcohol use disorders. While it is not actual alcohol use disorder treatment, it offers a structured program of recovery and excellent peer support. The downside to AA is that there is no objective method of making the person accountable (no abstinence requirements or methods to check abstinence), and the program is not run by professional mental health providers so it may not address all issues that need to be addressed. However, the program has been in operation for many decades, and its members are very supportive and swear by its principles.The program is essentially free, as AA meetings are funded by donations. Most members donate $1 per meeting, but there is no requirement to do so. Meetings are very accessible, occurring around the clock, and one can find a meeting in nearly any major urban area in the country. Learn more about how Alcoholics Anonymous can help those in recovery.
- Other peer support groups: There are other low-cost or free peer support groups. Some of these organizations may ask for donations, but they are willing to work with prospective members. These include:
- The Salvation Army: The Salvation Army rehabilitation programs for adults have been in existence for over a century. These centers offer residential housing and therapy (both group and individual therapy), and help individuals to find employment. The downside to the program is that it is heavily spiritually based (even more heavily spiritually based than AA), but it is essentially free. The program is funded through donations.
- Local programs: There may be local programs that offer free treatment for alcohol use disorders. For example, local community mental health centers may offer free group meetings or significantly reduced prices for individual therapy.
There are other options an individual can use to find local programs that are affordable.
- Ask. Contact local rehab facilities in the area that offer the type of program you need and speak with the facility about the cost of treatment and any potential financing options. Ask if there is financial assistance available for individuals who have special financial needs.
- Use what you have. If you have insurance, contact a customer service representative to find out exactly how much addiction treatment may be covered by your plan. Treatment facilities often have representatives who will help you with this process as well.
- Borrow funds. If needed, borrow funds from family members, friends, or a funding institution. Many treatment facilities offer financing plans or can help clients get financing to fund their treatment costs.
In a perfect world, anybody who needed any form of medical intervention would get it without financial barriers. People who do not have insurance or cannot afford to pay for the intervention they need for their alcohol use disorder are not out of options.
- Rehabilitation scholarships: In some cases, treatment centers offer scholarships or reduced tuition to those in need. In other cases, local groups may fund these scholarships.
- Second Chance: Second Chance may be able to help people finance rehab, find a free rehab program, or find scholarships.
- Special programs: Facilities that have empty beds in their inpatient rehab organization may be willing to trade a scholarship for certain types of volunteer work.
Some individuals can get free or low-cost insurance coverage if they meet certain specifications. Medicare is a federal government program that provides healthcare coverage for those over the age of 65 or with certain disabilities. It is available for individuals regardless of their level of income, but does charge discounted premiums. Medicaid is a state and federal program that provides coverage for individuals who have low levels of income. Both of these programs offer extensive coverage for recovery from an alcohol use disorder or other substance use order. The income qualifications to receive Medicaid coverage vary from state to state; one can visit the Medicaid website to determine if they qualify for Medicaid and can even use the website to sign up for Medicaid coverage.
At the time of this writing, the stipulations of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) guarantee that individuals can get some form of coverage and cannot be turned down for pre-existing conditions. Medicaid and Medicare are not accepted by all treatment providers, but one can find a treatment provider in their area that will accept these forms of insurance. In addition, individuals with low incomes can apply for Medicaid, and many institutions that take Medicaid will accept these individuals into the program while the application process is still being completed. One can go to these websites and determine if they qualify to receive these benefits and then can contact local treatment providers to find out if they accept these forms of insurance.
Some individuals may be eligible to get both Medicare and Medicaid. Therefore, if one has a disability, is over the age of 65, or has other qualifying conditions that may allow them to get Medicare, they should attempt to apply for both Medicare and Medicaid.
If you’ve recently lost your job and are in need of health insurance, you may be eligible for COBRA Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) which provides employees and their families the chance to stay on their former employer’s insurance for a limited time. To qualify for COBRA, individuals must meet certain criteria to enroll in the program including having insurance that is covered by COBRA, undergoing a qualifying event (e.g. job loss) and be a qualified beneficiary.
After a separation, your employer will inform you of your eligibility to maintain your insurance through COBRA and you’ll have 60 days to decide if you’d like to participate. However, your insurance will cost more than you previously paid as you’ll now be paying for the total premium instead of sharing the cost with your employer plus a 2% administrative fee.
If you decide to continue with COBRA, your coverage won’t change unless your employer changes or ends the employee benefits program. This will also include any mental health or substance abuse treatment coverage. You will be able to receive continued insurance benefits from a previous employer between 18 to 36 months with COBRA.
Thankfully, once enrolled, if you are seeking rehab for addiction, you will still be able to utilize your benefits to get treatment. You’ll need simply fill out a COBRA election form first and pay your premium and you can get started on your path toward recovery.
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