Should insurance companies be forced to pay for treatment of addicts?It is generally agreed that two factors contribute to a person becoming addicted to a substance, whether that substance is...

Should insurance companies be forced to pay for treatment of addicts?

It is generally agreed that two factors contribute to a person becoming addicted to a substance, whether that substance is alcohol or drugs. Those factors are genetics and environment; in other words, nature or nurture. There is no definitive research that proves one factor is more important than the other. Our nation’s healthcare system is very strained. If environment is a key component, that is, the choices we make due to influence or choice, not something biological, should insurance companies be forced to pay for treatment of addicts?

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wannam eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I see no reason for insurance companies to deny coverage for addiction treatment.  What addict can afford to enter treatment without insurance coverage?  Insurance companies pay for the health consequences of addiction such as liver disease or heart problems.  Covering the cost of addiction treatment could prevent future health expenses stemming from said addiction.  If you believe the current motto that alcoholism is a disease, then why shouldn't insurance companies pay for treatment.  Yes, it is a choice to start down the road to addiction, but at some point the choice is taken away to some extent.  It is also a choice to drive a car.  Choices are made when that car is involved in an accident.  Insurance provides coverage for the damages to the car and people inside.  That is point of insurance.  It helps us to pay for things that we can't necessarily plan for or afford to pay for on our own. 

I would also argue that the main reason the medical system is strained because of those who do not have insurance.  The hospital cannot refuse to treat anyone whether they have insurance or not.  Many people without insurance cannot afford to pay for their medical care.  This causes the expenses incurred by those without coverage to pass on to others.  The hospital has to pay the doctor whether the patient can afford to pay him or not.  When a patient cannot pay, the cost of care increases because the hospital still has to make a certain amount of money to cover their expenses.  If everyone had health insurance and appropriate coverage, the cost of medical care would actually decrease and there would be less strain on the system.

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Forced" is a loaded word in this question. It presupposes (1) an imposition, (2) an ethical impropriety, (3) legal, economic and ethical immunity from owing help, (4) disapproval of helping people with addictions. I'd contend that each of these implied presuppositions represents logical fallacies. Addictions harm more than the individual and the individual's family. Addictions harm the economy, increase the crime rate, deteriorate social integrity, instill negative cultural influences, impose unacceptable costs on employers through lost work days.

Addictions are not a personal issue that insurance companies are being "forced" against all that is reasonable to take up because of "bleeding heart" sensibilities. Insurance companies have the obligation to take up treatment for addictions (not in the style of the addicted rich and famous, but reasonably and moderately) because addiction is a health problem that has enormous ramifications on society and culture at large and the cost of not treating addiction through insurance companies (for those lucky enough to have an insurance company) is greater and more comprehensive than the cost of treating addictions.

Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Medical insurance companies should most definitely cover the costs of addiction treatment as research is showing that addiction is a disease. In fact, it is classified as a "neurologically based disease." While addiction is not a disease like diabetes, it is a neurological disorder in the same way that Tourette's Syndrome is a neurological disorder. Research is showing that addictions are not a matter of lacking will power. While an addiction can begin by a choice, addiction is the result of new neurological pathways created to sustain the addiction in a person's brain. In order to treat the addiction, these neurological pathways must be closed and new neurological pathways must be created through a detox program. Hence, since addiction is a neurological disease, insurance companies must cover the costs of a treatment, just like other diseases.

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think the most important aspect of this debate lies within the phrase "Insurance Company;" the company's foremost goal should be to increase the wealth of the company for its owners and stockholders while providing meaningful service to its users.  With that being said, the insurance company should approach the addiction dilemma from a financial standpoint.  In this case, the proverbial saying, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," may prove true; insurance companies may find that providing access to treatment programs to stop and prevent recurrence of addiction may prove cheaper than addressing all of the medical concerns that come with long-term addiction years from now. 

The financial approach may seem a little callous but is the most logical step for insurance companies to take.  They need to address the issue from the perspective of what will save the company the most money both short term and long term, weigh the benefits and cost analysis and proceed from there. 


pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes, insurance companies should have to pay for this.  The previous post argues that insurance companies should not be forced to pay for other peoples' "very bad and costly decisions."  However, insurance companies pay for bad decisions all the time.  They pay for the decisions of people who eat too much.  They pay for the decisions of people who don't exercise.  They pay for the decisions of people who smoke.  All of these decisions are just as bad as the "decision" to misuse alcohol or addictive drugs.  Therefore, there is no reason to pay for the effects of some bad decisions but not others.

shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There should be some sort of very basic, inexpensive benefit for addiction treatment.

However, any kind of more expensive addiction treatment should be part of an insurance policy that the policyholder pays extra for. They should not get coverage unless they buy it when they take out the policy. Otherwise, we all pay for the treatment.

I realize that almost nobody would choose to pay it when they took out their policy, because who expects to be an addict? But we shouldn't all have to pay for their very bad and costly decision to misuse alcohol or addictive drugs.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Wow, this is an interesting moral question.  Addiction is a disease.  If you believe that, then it does need to be treated.  If a person smokes too much and gets lung cancer, the insurance company would be required to treat it.  Is there really that much difference?

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