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How Trumpcare Could Cripple Addiction and Mental Health Treatment

How Trumpcare Could Cripple Addiction and Mental Health Treatment

Author: Justin Mckibben

The new Trumpcare plan, formally known as the American Health Care Act or AHCA was announced this Monday March 6th. This Trumpcare bill is the Republican Party’s long awaited plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Since day one of the announcement we have seen quite a few varying opinions as to what this means for the people who were previously covered, and what it means for how healthcare altogether might change. Needless to say, not that much of the talk has been optimistic. As details emerge about Trumpcare some have become increasingly worried about the impact it will have on access to treatment for substance use disorder, especially for low-income Americans.

So what some are officials and experts saying about Trumpcare, and what it might mean for Americans struggling with addiction?

Early Predictions on Trumpcare

According to some early reports, 6-10 million Americans will lose health insurance. Not only that, millions of people in desperate need of help could be cut off from access to addiction treatment as a result of the bill.

In fact, according to one analysis, approximately 2.8 million people living with substance use disorder will lose some or all of their health insurance coverage if Obamacare is repealed. This conclusion comes from:

  • Harvard health economist Richard Frank
  • Sherry Glied, Dean of the Wagner School of Public Service at NYU

The publication The Hill reported in January that Frank and Glied predict that the federal government’s 21st Century Cures Act creates a recent investment of $1 billion to tackle opioid abuse. However, they state this provision would be- squandered if the new Congress rolls back recent gains in the quality and level of substance use and mental health insurance coverage generated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010.”

Surely this is all “fake news” and “alternative facts” right?

Not so much. According to reports from the Washington Post Thursday, House Republicans admitted, after questioning by Massachusetts Democratic Representative Joe Kennedy III, that their the Trumpcare plan to repeal-and-replace would- “remove a requirement to offer substance abuse and mental-health coverage that’s now used by at least 1.3 million Americans.”

How does this happen? By attacking the expansion of Medicaid and the ‘essential benefits’ states are required to provide for.

Trumpcare Impact on Medicaid

Trumpcare’s plan to roll back Medicaid and health insurance tax credits are pretty distressing aspect of this reform. For all the Americans who rely on government assistance for addiction treatment this is a pretty huge deal.

Addiction treatment in the past is notably impacted by Medicaid. According to Truven Health Analytics, Medicaid was the second largest payer for addiction treatment, after state and local programs, in 2014.

Starting in 2020, Trumpcare is set to:

  • Freeze Medicaid enrollment
  • No longer require Medicaid to cover essential health benefits like addiction treatment

What is the point? To make it so the federal government pays less for Medicaid over time by shrinking coverage.

So if this is all the case, it is a terrifying reality. In a time when more Americans than ever desperately need addiction treatment, in the midst of an opioid epidemic that is tearing families and communities apart, the government’s Trumpcare plan stands to save money by stripping addiction resources from those relying on Medicaid?

Representative Kelly and Peter Welch, Democratic Representative from Vermont, attempted to amend the bill to restore the federal mandate for those ‘essential benefits’ but were voted down. Kenny is popularly quoted in the news recently for his statement,

“There is no mercy in a country that turns their back on those most in need of protection: the elderly, the poor, the sick, and the suffering. There is no mercy in a cold shoulder to the mentally ill… This is not an act of mercy — it is an act of malice.”

While Trump’s comments say he wants to give states “flexibility” with Medicaid to make sure no one is left out, many believe this is just adding the idea of paying more for less.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer vows to lead efforts to defeat Trumpcare, stating he believes it will “Make America Sick Again” and believes that it will create more drug addicts. In a report from The Hill Schumer attacks the bill saying,

“To make matters worse, this sham of a replacement would rip treatment away from hundreds of thousands of Americans dealing with opioid addiction, breaking the President’s word that he would expand treatment, not cut it.”

This is continuously troubling. When it comes to the fight against addiction, President Trump’s administration seems to be more focused on borders and “law and order” than providing resources. Trump did promise to work on creating more coverage options, but all the action taking place almost points the opposite direction.

Trumpcare Impact on Treatment Providers

This chain reaction wouldn’t just hurt those who need insurance by denying them coverage. Experts say Trumpcare also has the capacity to do damage to the treatment providers themselves.

Keith Humphreys, a drug policy expert at Stanford University, points out this issue directly. Humphreys notes that treatment providers, which tend to be small businesses in many parts of the country, may find it difficult to stay in business if clients lose coverage for addiction treatment. If less people are able to get coverage, less people will be able to get treatment. At the same time even bigger treatment providers could have trouble because it still has the capacity to reduce reimbursement rates for treatment services.

Thus, Trumpcare could affect both the supply and quality of treatment. In one interview Humphreys states,

“Most providers are small, mono-business entities that can’t absorb costs elsewhere in their care systems,”

“While hospitals will not go broke if poor people get less oncology care coverage, many [substance use disorder] treatment agencies will.”

But it isn’t just Democrats or University Professors or addiction experts speaking out. The AARP, the American Hospital Association, and the American Medical Association voice opinions against the overhaul of the ACA and the potential harm Trumpcare could do.

Even Republicans are speaking out against the danger that Trumpcare poses to addiction. Ohio Governor John Kasich is vocal with his own opposition to the bill saying,

“[Trumpcare] unnecessarily puts at risk our ability to treat the drug-addicted mentally ill and working poor who now have access to a stable source of care.”

Not to say that healthcare was ever perfect. It is noted by many doctors in the addiction field, as well as politicians and other experts, that there is already a treatment deficit. Approximately 10% of America’s population has what could be considered a substance use disorder, and only 13% of those people ever get treatment.

However, the miles of red tape Trumpcare might wrap around them could cut that number drastically. So even if these are unintended consequences, they are very real consequences just the same.

Obamacare was far, far from perfect. This is absolutely true. But is Trumpcare the best answer we can come up with?

As it now stands, Trumpcare may take so much away from those struggling with addiction and mental health that some experts are calling it dangerous. Having safe, effective and comprehensive treatment resources for these issues is extremely important to the preservation of life and the future of America. This is a matter of life and death. It is not the time for an ‘anything but Obamacare’ mentality… if the government expects a better plan, they need to make it happen. How about we put a hold on spending billions on border walls and expanding the nuclear program, and instead focus on healing Americans who need it most.

 If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, think about who you want to be working with to find a real solution. Please call toll-free now.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

What New Parity Report Means for Mental Health and Substance Abuse

What New Parity Report Means for Mental Health and Substance Abuse

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

In 2008 the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act passed. Ever since then health insurers and employers have progressed toward improving coverage for mental health and substance abuse issues. One step in the new direction includes insurance plans no longer charging higher copays or separate deductibles for mental health care, but beyond that there is more to be done.

In March President Obama announced the establishment of a task force focused on further studying and improving the scope of coverage for mental health to ensure that patients with mental illness and addiction would not face discrimination in their health care.

The task force recently submitted a report in which they have made a series of recommendations. Part of this initiative called for $9.3 million in funding to improve enforcement of the federal parity law. Taking a closer look at the report, this is important news for those trying to find help.

The Task Force Report

As part of the report, the task force authors touch on how the lack of effective treatment impacts more than just the costs of treatment and actually creates more issues and more costs down the road. The report states:

“These disorders affect society in ways that go beyond the direct cost of care. Without effective treatment, people with these health conditions may find it difficult to find or maintain a job, may be less able to pursue education and training opportunities, may require more social support services, and are more likely to have their housing stability threatened.”

This is the truth. People who fail to receive quality care for substance abuse and addiction often end up facing multiple hurdles later on. The fact is there are significant problems with the parity law. But some are probably asking, what is parity and what does it mean for substance abuse?

Parity Law Explained

Mental health parity means equal treatment of mental health and substance abuse disorders in insurance plans. When an insurance plan has parity, it means you should get the same benefits for mental health or addiction treatment as you do for other chronic conditions.

For example: If your insurance plan provides unlimited doctor visits for diabetes, they must also offer unlimited visits for depression or schizophrenia.

However, parity makes no guarantee for quality of coverage. Many would argue that “equal” coverage does not translate to “good” coverage. So if your health insurance is limited, your mental health coverage is also limited.

The rules of parity law can be a little confusing, and there are some big problems with regulation.

Task Force Recommendations

In order to get a comprehensive idea of how to address problems with parity, the task force reached out to several sources. They received 1,161 public comments from:

  • Patients
  • Families
  • Insurers
  • Advocates
  • State regulators

Based on the findings, the task force has enacted some new strategies to work toward move effective parity regulation. Some of these include:

  • The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is awarding $9.3 million to states to help enforce parity protections.
  • A new government website will help consumers identify the right agency to assist with parity complaints and appeals.
  • A new consumer guide to help patients, families and providers understand their rights and look into whether they have experienced a parity violation.
  • The Department of Labor will report each year on investigations into violations.

The federal task force also recommended the government increase its aptitude to audit health plans for parity compliance. Also they suggest the same for the Department of Labor when assessing civil monetary penalties for violations.

Opinions on Parity Plans

Former congressman Patrick Kennedy is one of the authors of the 2008 parity law. After examining the task force’s report he said the actions were a step in the right direction, but much of it still places the burden of real action on the patients. Kennedy insisted that the next administration will need to be vigilant in enforcing the parity law.

Both the America’s Health Insurance Plans and the American Psychiatric Association showed support for the report and its recommendations.

Benjamin Miller, director of the health policy center at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, has an even more direct stance on the matter. Miller says,

“Separate is not equal — mental health is core to health. People do not see themselves as a disease or a select health benefit, but rather a person who has needs. Benefits and payments should follow the person, address their needs, and address the whole of their health.”

Miller’s idea is that if we want the treatment coverage to be absolutely equal, why not just eliminate any borders of distinction?

What does it all mean?

Essentially, the federal task force is fighting to assure that insurance coverage for mental health and substance abuse be more available and more strictly enforced. At the end of the day, the government realizes that allowing insurance companies to skimp on the bill when it comes to treating these kinds of disorders is not tolerable, and that people should be made more aware of their rights to coverage.

State and federal laws may also be different in regards to protection of parity. People should be educated on how this affects them and how to make sure their insurance providers are offering them the quality and equality of care they’re entitled to.

People struggling with substance abuse and addiction deserve comprehensive and compassionate treatment, and these actions are an important step towards making treatment more available.

Substance abuse should be getting the attention is deserves. Hopefully the discussion on drug policies will gain priority in the upcoming months. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Why It Feels Good to Listen to Sad Songs

Why It Feels Good to Listen to Sad Songs

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

From Gary Jules and “Mad World” to Bob Dylan and “Knocking on Heavens Door,” from Jonny Cash and “Hurt” to R.E.M. and “Everybody Hurts,” then even more current like Foo Fighters singing “Best of You” and Adele singing “Hello” people seem to love listening to sad songs. Music moves us, and some more than others.

So many popular hits throughout time have been some of the saddest sad songs, ranging in context from loss of a loved one to heartbreak and substance abuse, sad songs seem to just get people. Often times sad songs actually move us deeply and in a more memorable way than happier ones.

So why is it that sad songs are so popular and people actually want to listen to them? Why does it feel so good to listen to sad songs?

Studies Seeking Sad Music

Probably one of the strangest things about sad songs is that people seem avid to readily consume music that can leave them feeling bad or recalling unpleasant events. One would wonder why people wouldn’t listen to uplifting music instead of songs that could depress them if they have such a vast world of music available to them.

  • Exhibit A

One study published last year in Frontiers in Psychology said that sad music might make people feel vicarious unpleasant emotions, but this experience can ultimately become a satisfying one because it allows a negative emotion to exist indirectly, and at a safe distance from the actually direct circumstances of that experience.

So instead of feeling being activity in the moment and wrapped up in the sorrow of the situation first hand, people get to feel nostalgia for a time when they were in a similar emotional state, but sad songs are perceived as a non-threatening way to remember sadness.

  • Exhibit B

According to another study in Frontiers of Psychology, there are a few different reasons different types of people feel good listening to sad songs.

People who are more empathetic are more likely to enjoy the kind of emotional experience created by sad songs. 

According to a review published in 2015 in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, other people enjoy sad songs because this kind of music helps them return to an emotionally balanced state.

Then there are those more susceptible to varied experiences who might enjoy sad songs because the unique emotions that come up when listening to the music fulfill their need for novelty in thoughts and feelings.

What all the data concludes is that in the end an individual’s love of a particular song or genre of music could have roots in their specific personality. So depending on the personality, the reaction to sad music may differ, but we end up feeling good when listening to sad music because it feeds some of our most basic needs.

Our Needs

Our need for significance is typically met by sad music because we feel a unique and deep personal attachment to songs that relate to our intimate experiences. Sad music helps us to feel more significant about the depth of our situations.

Our need for certainty is met because we can usually be certain about the connections we make with sad songs and with the feelings they bring up for us. Sad songs can anchor us into a memory or a belief that we know to be a truth in our lives.

Our need for uncertainty is also being met because we are reminded that there is still a side of loss in life. We are reminded of the elements of ambiguity and freedom that exist and how we will not always be in control of what happens or how we feel.

Our need for connection is met because sad songs can unite us with people who empathize with our sentiment or experiences. If we listen to sad love songs we can remember a deep connection we once held on to, or we can recall the connection we had to someone close to us who has passed on.

Sad songs make us feel good for all kinds of reasons. Some would even say sad songs are good for our mental health, and that need for variety is met because we get to know the highs and lows of life for the lessons and stories they hold for us. We see the sun can’t shine all the time, but we see the rain for being beautiful.

Music is one thing that can have some influence on how we feel, and sometimes reminds us how intensely we can feel. Having a healthy emotional response is one way we develop as healthier people. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

 

 

 

Recovery Works Program Paying For Drug Addiction Treatment

Recovery Works Program Paying For Drug Addiction Treatment

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

The issue facing thousands of addicts all over the country is that they are uninsured, or lack the necessary coverage to get the help they need. There are programs set up to help with financial assistance with many establishments, but still many addicts go without adequate drug addiction treatment options.

Well for drug offenders in Indiana there may be new signs of hope; the state has launched its first statewide program that will pay for the mental health and drug addiction treatment of uninsured drug offenders that are sent to community corrections centers. This is all part of a progressive push gaining in momentum over the months to provide more options and resources to uninsured addicts in the area.

Statistics from the Indiana Department of Correction have made it quite clear that 80% of offenders in prison need drug addiction treatment, and with the way the opiate epidemic has hit the nation that statistic may be modest. Separate reports have found that 16% of inmates across the country have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness, so no matter how you look at it, we get the picture; there is a need for effective treatment.

Recovery Works

The statement is as true as it gets, ask anyone in active recovery who has face down their own demons; recovery works.

So it only makes sense the new program in Indiana would don the designation Recovery Works. This new initiative aims to keep low-level, non-violent drug offenders out of prison, which has become a popular subject of discussion in recent months. President Obama, along with several other officials and politicians, have expressed a serious concern with overpopulated prison systems industrialized off of the steady stream of non-violent drug offenders who are quite often addicts themselves.

Beginning on November 1 the power was put in the hands of many elements in the justice system, specifically:

  • Courts
  • Community corrections managers
  • Probation and parole officers

These officials now have the option of referring eligible felons to designated treatment centers instead of jail or prison, turning the tides on the failed War on Drugs toward the new common goal of treating addicts as those in need and not those to blame.

Money Where Your Mouth Is

One big thing we notice here is that the state of Indiana is making moves to put its money where its mouth is and the way the drug addiction treatment conversation is going talking isn’t as cheap, but it is well worth it.

The money for Recovery Works will be pulled from $10 million in state funding for the first year and $20 million for the second year, but the state will need to continue providing funding in order to meet a growing need for drug addiction treatment.

Individuals involved in the program will receive $2,500 in vouchers for various means of assistance including:

  • Mental health and addiction assessments
  • Screenings
  • Treatments
  • Transportation to get to and from treatments

There are a few guidelines other than breaking the law with low-level drug offenses. All participants must meet the following requirements:

  • At least 18 years old
  • Have income under 200% of the federal poverty level
  • No other form of health insurance

Name Dropper

State Representative Linda Lawson co-authored the bill for the Recovery Works program, and she stated:

“We hope this will always be part of our budget, that this would be a priority.”

Kevin Moore, director of the Division of Mental Health and Addiction at the Family Social Services Administration, advocates for the Recovery Works programs, saying they are designed to bridge the gap for offenders in the program who will temporarily receive drug addiction treatment until they can obtain Medicaid coverage or find another form of health insurance. All 25 community health centers throughout the state are expected to eventually link to the program.

Franklin County Sheriff Ken Murphy made a statement about how important this program would be to the community and how the people of Indiana should be made aware of how essential this is for all residents:

“It’s something the public has to wake up and understand. This problem affects everybody.”

While inspiring programs like these are coming to life, there is already a strong recovery community and effective resources available to those in need of treatment. Palm Partners is a drug addiction treatment center emphasizing holistic healing and total transformation, and there are a number of options available to help those who need treatment get it.

There is always hope and sometimes that hope is just a phone call away. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. We want to help. You are not alone.

 

John Oliver Exposes Issues With Mental Health in America

John Oliver Exposes Issues With Mental Health in America

Author: Justin Mckibben

If you’re asking me, which no one was but I’ll say it anyway, John Oliver is THE MAN! I have always been a big fan of this style of current political news-eque comedy shows, such as the infamous Daily Show with former host John Stewart. These entertainers are actually some pretty smart people, and they make a lot of sense in how they poke fun of the nonsense of the world with satire and parodies of current affairs and failed policies, while driving home some serious points about injustice and a need for consciousness in the current climate of our culture.

These kinds of shows expose us to the ridiculously backwards practices of politics, and prove that in many cases the truth is stranger than fiction.

John Oliver is one of the best in this business in my opinion, because he is strikingly well-informed and intelligent with his arguments and examinations of a vast variety of issues concerning Americans today, and on Last Week Tonight this past Sunday he jumped into another highly controversial but increasingly important issue relevant to our society today- mental health.

With mental health disorders and addiction being such a huge issue facing the nation, this is a conversation we desperately need to have.

The Stigma

The first thing John Oliver talked about was the language we use in America to discuss mental illness, especially with it being such a touchy topic, and how stigma dominates the language in ways we don’t always notice is right under our noses. He shows a clip where Dr. Harold Schwartz, Chief Psychiatrist at Hartford Hospital when Schwartz notes that stigma is a very huge issue with mental health and it is directly connected to the words we use to describe the mentally ill.

Oliver points out how even on television our ‘TV doctor personalities’ use some language that is full of demeaning and offensively stigmatic words to label mentally ill people. Oliver shows a clip of Dr. Oz using the words “normal or nuts” to describe behaviors, and another clip showing Dr. Phil saying to someone,

“Completely insane people go outside, suck on a rock and bark at the moon”

Seriously? Is that your official diagnosis, Dr. Phil?

This kind of blatantly offensive comment is just the example of how mental illness is made light of or even made fun of in the media, which counter-productively takes away from the efforts to inform people about the realities of mental health disorders.

Violence in the Media

John Oliver then goes to point out how annoyed he was that it seems the only time mental health is taken seriously in the media and discussed is in the aftermath of a mass shooting, especially since millions of people suffer from severe mental illnesses every year. He states:

“The aftermath of a mass shooting might actually be the worst time to talk about mental health because for the record, the vast majority of mentally ill people are nonviolent and the vast majority of gun violence is committed by non-mentally-ill people. In fact, mentally ill people are far likelier to be the victims of violence rather than the perpetrators.”

This goes on to highlight the point that to only discuss mental health disorders when something like the recent tragedy in Oregon happens is devastatingly misleading, and that in fact statistically:

  • 2013- estimated 43.8 million adults in America had a mental health disorder
  • Estimated 10.0 million suffer from a serious mental health disorder each year

This shows that the population struggling with mental health disorders has been grossly misrepresented in the media. Oliver stated:

“That’s almost as many people as live in Greece, and most of us know a lot more about Greece than we do about our mental health system.”

So pushing the mental health conversation to the front only when there is some violent attack and making it about mental health and not gun control or anything else is misrepresenting the problem and the people that face it.

History of Treatment

In the 1960’s Oliver noted President John F. Kennedy signing legislation to eliminate the use of custodial asylums and replace them with therapeutic mental health centers, but yet in modern day America 55 years later our mental health care system is broken.

A few years ago the report by AP found that,

“…nearly 125,000 young and middle-aged adults with serious mental illness lived in U.S. nursing homes…”

An even more horrific reality was something referred to as ‘greyhound therapy’ in some states where Oliver reported facilities would discharge severely ill patients too soon, and then supply them with a one-way bus ticket out of town, literally shipping an untreated person with a mental health disorder off to be someone else’s concern.

But still, it gets worse.

Oliver shows a report on screen citing the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Treatment Advocacy Center that states that 2 million mentally ill people in America go to state and federal prisons every year!

That is 10 times the amount of people in actual psychiatric treatment who have a mental health disorder locked up in an overcrowded and exhausted prison system! Our answer thus far has been using the criminal justice system to treat the mentally ill, and it has been extremely expensive and ineffective for the problem as a whole.

New Plans

In the episode, there are also some more effective and positive methods pointed out as well, including crisis intervention branches of law enforcement and assertive community treatment programs in many states that are losing funding even though statistically they essentially pay for themselves, with many designed for many different levels of mental health disorders.

Many of these programs have a great potential to make a huge difference, especially in changing the face of mental health disorders and the stigma in the public eye, while innovating the way it is treated in America.

Oliver closed this segment of the show with a powerful statement in which he called out politicians by showing footage of several GOP presidential candidates talking about the need to improve mental health care since the terrible incident in Oregon, to which his response was pretty spot-on:

“Fine — do it then. Because if we’re going to constantly use mentally ill people to dodge conversations about gun control, then the very least we owe them is a f—— plan.”

He’s absolutely right, it’s time for more solutions and less stereotyping and scapegoating!

Substance abuse and addiction are commonly considered an extension of the world of mental health disorders, and with the opiate epidemic in America reaching sky-scraping heights and the reoccurring topic of mental health disorders being brought to the attention of the media, it would seem like John Oliver is trying to help us see a lot of enormous problems with an issue far too many people don’t fully comprehend.

Stigma holds us back from growing, violence and misrepresenting the issue does a great injustice to progress, and proper and effective treatment must become a priority if things are ever to change.

The right treatment can save lives, and if someone is willing to seek out the help they need, there are always people ready to help. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

 

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