It is true that we have seen some important gains in having addiction recognized as illness. It is also true that we still have a long way to go before people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs are covered by their health plans to the same degree as what is afforded for physical illness. That is the goal of parity – equal coverage and treatment for behavioral health problems, including addiction.
Lorraine Laura, LCSW, Program Director at Unity Place of Monmouth, has a long career treating patients with an addiction. Her years in the addiction field have given her a close, and often troubling viewpoint of patients being denied the proper level of care approved by their health insurers.
Among the obstacles health insurers use to deny proper care is known as fail first. This is the practice of having the patient go for a lower level of care than clinically recommended. Only after failing at the lower level might the appropriate level of care be approved. Lorraine notes the absurdity of this scenario. Imagine a cancer patient being told to try a form of care that is less effective than the chemo that this individual’s oncologist prescribed.
New Jersey may at long-last address the issue of disparate care through the legislative process. The state Legislature has before it a measure to require parity in treating addiction. A hearing on the bill may have Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee hearing on September 13. Advocates have had a long row to hoe, delays that have cost many lives, but a remedy could at long last be at hand.
You can play an important part in this effort by contacting your representatives on the Legislature and asking that they consider supporting A.2031/S.1339. Here is a link to look up elected officials and make calls to your two NJ Assemblypersons and Senator. http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/districts/municipalities.asp