Find out how to pay for treatment

It can be complicated, but understanding your rights and options can help.

Paying for treatment with insurance

Navigating the insurance process for addiction treatment can become a nightmare if you are stuck with large or unexpected bills. Instead of “getting the care you need and then figuring out how to pay for it” we’re here to help you “get the care you need and have insurance help pay for it.” 

Insurance coverage for addiction treatment varies by your plan and where you live. It’s complicated, but it’s doable. Here are some steps to follow:

1. Take a deep breath.

2. Review your insurance plan benefits and coverage.
You can find most of these online through your insurance portal’s website. They are called “certificates of coverage.” If you can’t find it, call your insurance provider to clarify. The phone number can be found on the back of your insurance card.

  • Understand what you might be responsible for: This will likely include meeting a deductible, cost sharing, and/or co-payment. Remember, this may be different depending on the care setting for addiction treatment, such as outpatient or residential care so be sure to ask for specifics.
  • Understand if you have in-network or out-of-network benefits, or both. This may limit access to specialty providers or require a referral.
  • Make sure the insurance plan covers medications for addiction treatment if you’re being treated for opioid use disorder.
  • Check with your insurer if you need prior authorization for specific treatment settings, medications, or office visits that your provider recommends. Also check if there are limits or caps to these services.

3. Find quality science-based care.
Use the level of care, or treatment setting, recommended by your healthcare provider, to narrow down the list of options and find high quality science-based treatment that is covered under your insurance plan.

4. Understand your rights under the law.
The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act requires private insurers to cover SUD/MH benefits at an equal cost to medical/surgical benefits. The Affordable Care Act requires a Medicaid plan to cover substance use disorders and mental health disorders as “essential health benefits.”

5. Keep any documentation of communication with your insurance plan.
This includes explanation of benefits, phone calls, emails, bills, and/or denial letters.

6. If you are denied coverage for care, appeal. If you are denied again, appeal again.
Your insurance company is required to provide you with the standards they used to deny care. They may say it was deemed “not medically necessary,” in which case, ask the medical provider to provide information on medical necessity. If you have been denied and are unclear on your rights, find out about common violations. You can also check out this useful guide to learn about the steps to file an appeal.

7. If you receive a surprise bill for care, follow these steps to negotiate your bill.

Paying for treatment if you don’t have insurance

If you or your loved one are not insured, there are programs that offer payment assistance or scholarships for treatment. Be mindful of programs or facilities that offer “free” stays for treatment. Facilities that utilize these tactics are typically not quality programs and may be fraudulent. To learn more about quality treatment that is based on science, visit ATLAS

Check if you’re eligible for Medicaid.
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), behavioral health services became mandatory for public insurance (Medicaid) to cover in every state. As an “essential health” benefit, addiction treatment cannot be denied to a patient under public insurance.

If you are below a certain household income threshold, you may qualify for Medicaid. If you or a loved one are pregnant and/or are below 19 years of age, you automatically qualify for Medicaid. See if you’re eligible for Medicaid in your state.

Look into community health centers and state-run options.
States have federally funded government treatment centers that may be an option. A hospital or state-run medical facility may be another option. Community health centers are nonprofit health providers that may be able to assist with treatment costs or offer payment on a sliding scale. Find one in your area.

Ask about payment assistance. 
If your provider is recommending a level of care that requires an in-person stay at a treatment facility, see if they accept Medicaid. If they do not, speak to them about a sliding scale based on income, and/or a payment plan or scholarship. 

Research nonprofit programs. 
Programs like The Salvation Army offer no cost treatment options for drug and alcohol addiction. See if this is an option for you or a loved one.

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