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5 Government Treatment Options Available for Alcoholism


Author: Thomas Roth

Last Updated: 6/02/2022

In the United States, addiction treatment is expensive and hard to access without insurance. Some residential rehabilitation centers can cost more than $10,000 for 30 days without adequate insurance. While addiction treatment is expensive, federal and state governments have made it a priority to acquire funding for substance abuse programs. For people who are struggling to find affordable treatment options, government-funded programs can help. However, it’s important to consider the requirements of each government-funded program.

Government-funded programs also vary in quality, eligibility, and coverage. One example is that some ACA insurance plans might not cover long-term inpatient care. An example of limited eligibility is the Veterans Administration; it’s only accessible to people who served in the military. The growing number of government-funded addiction treatments can make treatment for alcohol abuse disorder (AUD) possible for everyone.

1. Medicare

Medicare is one of the most well-known government-funded healthcare programs. Medicare has been around for over 50 years and was established by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965. Primarily, Medicare is for people who are over the age of 65. Its purpose is to replace employer-provided health insurance during an individual’s retirement years. People who are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can also gain access to Medicare benefits and individuals with specific diseases like End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) are also eligible.

Medicare is a government-funded healthcare program, which means that there are many treatment programs to choose from. That said, it’s important to work with rehabilitation centers and outpatient programs that are within Medicare’s network. Medicare might also not cover things like long-term inpatient care. You should always check a rehab center before checking in with Medicare.

There are four parts of Medicare and each part determines what treatment modalities are covered. These parts and what they cover are listed below.

  • Medicare Part A: Covers up to 190 days of inpatient rehab and requires a deductible. Medicare Part A can also cover up to 60 days in inpatient rehab without the need for co-insurance payments. However, inpatient stays over this length are subject to additional payments.
  • Medicare Part B: Provides coverage for outpatient treatment modalities. Depending on the condition, Medicare Part B can cover 80% of the cost of treatment and medication. Medicare Part B covers medications, co-occurring disorders, and most types of therapy.
  • Medicare Part C: Medicare Part C is different from Part A and B because it’s for people who want Medicare-approved private care. Plans vary based on what an individual wants in the plan. Furthermore, Medicare Part C can cover most treatment modalities.
  • Medicare Part D: Covers medications like Antabuse and Naltrexone for severe cases of alcoholism withdrawal. Medicare Part D may cover the entire cost of a prescription or only a percentage of a prescription.

Medicare’s biggest benefit is that anyone over the age of 65 is eligible for a Medicare insurance plan. People who are over the age of 65 have a higher risk of suffering from alcohol-related health conditions, so getting addiction treatment with Medicare before alcoholism progresses can be life-saving. On the other hand, the biggest drawback of Medicare is that you need to be over the age of 65 to use it, unless you have a disability or ESRD.

2. Medicaid

Established by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 along with Medicare, Medicaid is another popular government-funded healthcare program. That said, Medicaid is different from Medicare in many ways. First and foremost, Medicaid has stricter requirements for eligibility. For example, Medicaid is designed to help people with limited financial resources. Medicaid also provides coverage for qualified pregnant women and the children of families with Medicaid coverage.

The Federal Poverty Level is also another metric to determine if someone is eligible for Medicaid. In the United States, the Federal Poverty Level for a single adult is an income of $13,590. However, the Federal Poverty Level fluctuates based on how many people live in a family. For example, the Federal Poverty Level income for a family of 4 living in the same home is $27,750. 

Medicaid’s biggest benefit is that it provides a wide range of coverage for people below the Federal Poverty Level. People can get treatment for many types of addiction, including alcohol abuse disorder. Treatment options vary but there are inpatient options, and outpatient options and recovering alcoholics can also gain access to medications. Therefore, it’s the best option for people who don’t have access to better health plans or the resources to treat themselves for alcohol addiction.

Medicaid is not perfect, though, and has several drawbacks. The biggest disadvantage is that an individual becomes ineligible for Medicaid once they have an income that’s above the Federal Poverty Line. Even if the income is only a few hundred dollars over that poverty line, healthcare benefits can be removed. Medicaid also doesn’t give people many options. Additionally, the quality of care is not always the best with Medicaid health plans, especially when it comes to addiction. This is because some treatment centers become crowded and struggle with staffing issues.

3. Affordable Care Act (ACA)

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law by the Obama administration. It became the law on March 23, 2010. The ACA is also known as Obamacare and Patient Protection. While the ACA was signed into law in 2010, it’s changed over the last decade. It’s important to learn about your specific plan (if you have one) and the plans available to you if you don’t have coverage. There are also specific eligibility requirements for healthcare under the ACA.

The benefit of the ACA is that people have more access to medical treatment for alcoholism and addiction. A big component of the act was including mental health issues in the coverage. In the past, people could be turned away or charged more for mental health disorders and drug/alcohol addictions. With the ACA, drug and alcohol conditions are covered under the ten essential health benefits outlined in the ACA.

The ACA also covers many parts of addiction treatment. People with government healthcare have access to screenings, medical treatment, therapy, medication, and even inpatient rehabilitation. While people gain access to many treatment options, there is a lack of flexibility in the ACA. This means that people need to reference their coverage plan to see what resources are available to them. Additionally, some plans don’t cover inpatient rehab or therapy; the biggest drawback of the ACA is that it might not cover a screening or more niche treatment modality like the Sinclair Method.

4. Veterans Administration (VA) Benefits

The Veterans Administration (VA) is responsible for helping people who served in the military with medical conditions, addiction, financial aid, and more. Unfortunately, Veterans are more likely to abuse alcohol than others because of mental health conditions that develop during wars and fighting. To cope with these conditions, many Veterans turn to alcohol and other drugs to self-medicate.

To help veterans who are struggling with alcoholism, the VA has several alcohol-related programs. There are support groups for veterans to attend and the VA offers drug and alcohol rehabilitation options. The rehabilitation options can be inpatient programs or outpatient programs with flexible scheduling. Some locations offer evening and night counseling sessions to accommodate the schedules of veterans. While the VA is affordable and flexible for veterans, the biggest drawback is that veterans can only work with rehabilitation centers in the VA’s network. Therefore, there are fewer choices. Another disadvantage is that it’s only suitable for veterans and not members of the general public.

With the VA, the focus of treatment is co-occurring disorders that lead to alcohol abuse. Many treatment programs are designed to help people cope with things like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and insomnia. The goal of treatment is to treat the root cause of addiction to prevent relapse and further self-medication. VA programs are available for more than just alcohol. For example, veterans can get help for opioids and other substances too.

5. State-Funded Alcohol Treatment Services

State-funded alcohol treatment services also exist. These are programs that are funded by state governments, which means there are variations depending on the state. For example, New York’s services might differ from California’s and Alabama’s. Ultimately, it depends on where you live. For this reason, it’s important to learn about the specific options in your state when seeking state-funded alcohol treatment services.

That said, most state-funded programs do have a few things in common. Most state-funded programs require proof of income, residency in the state, United States citizenship, and an individual’s history of alcohol abuse. State-funded programs also have a waiting list because many treatment centers become crowded. These programs are best suited for people with low income and no access to healthcare. People can get treatment faster if there are existing medical conditions.

State-funded programs are great because people can move up on waiting lists if there are serious health conditions or dangers. Furthermore, state-funded programs offer a wide range of coverage options. With these programs, people can get long-term inpatient care, alcohol detox, partial hospitalization, and outpatient therapy. Because of long waiting lists, many states offer outpatient care and support groups for people who are waiting for inpatient rehab.

State-funded programs are great but come with some drawbacks. The biggest disadvantage of state-funded programs is that they vary based on where someone lives. This means that you need to know your specific state’s medical benefits to know what type of addiction treatment to expect. Another problem is the waiting list (if a state has one). In large states with populous cities like New York and California, it can take months for people to get the inpatient alcoholism rehab they need.

Which is the Most Effective Treatment for Alcoholism?

The most effective government-funded treatment for alcoholism is Medicare. It’s the most effective treatment for alcoholism because it’s the most flexible. There are four parts of Medicare and each part covers a unique part of addiction treatment. Plus, someone recovering from alcoholism can benefit from Medicare Parts 1-4 as they progress through addiction recovery.

While Medicare is the most effective government-funded option for alcoholism, some treatment plans are better than others. When working with government-funded programs individuals get the most value out of inpatient treatment care. Inpatient care has a higher success rate because outside temptations are limited and people are taken off of the streets. People who don’t have a place to live can also use inpatient rehab to get back on their feet.

Why Should You Consider Government-Funded Drug and Alcohol Treatment Centers?

You should consider government-funded drug and alcohol treatment centers for a few reasons. That said, the best reason to consider these treatment options is the cost. For some individuals, inpatient rehab treatment is too expensive and not covered by some types of private medical insurance. 

Government-funded programs are also great for people who are over the age of 65 (Medicare and Medicaid) because when people retire they lose their employer’s health benefits. When this occurs, government-funded programs like Medicare and Medicaid may be the only options available. Veterans can also save money getting treatment through the Veterans Administration (VA) instead of using private health insurance or other government programs. 

Can Alcoholism Be Treated?

Yes, alcoholism can be treated. While alcohol is an addictive substance, people can treat the addiction and co-occurring disorders that cause or influence alcohol dependence. Alcoholism can be treated with inpatient care, outpatient care, sober living, support groups, and more.

There are also many ways to get alcoholism treatment. Government-funded programs can help veterans, people with low income, and people over the age of 65. People can also access state-funded programs if they don’t have access to private insurance. Private insurance can also be used to get treatment and some people can pay out-of-pocket for long-term alcoholism treatment.