Save Lives by Preserving and Expanding Insurance Coverage for Substance Use Disorders While there are many valuable interests in the complex discussions over health care policy, none should take precedence over the highest duty we have to one another—protecting life. As the nation's leading nonprofit provider of addiction prevention, treatment and recovery services, the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation takes seriously our responsibility to help save lives, restore families and improve the social fabric of our communities and nation. Drug and alcohol addiction is our nation’s most devastating public health crisis, affecting one in seven individuals and one in three families, while costing the economy $442 billion annually. Since 1999, more than a half million Americans have died from opioid and other drug overdoses. Alcohol kills even more. Yet today, while every $1 spent treating addiction saves $4 in other health care costs and $7 in criminal justice costs, only one in 10 individuals who need addiction treatment get it. While debates rage over how to improve the nation’s health insurance system, which was last reformed in 2010 by the Affordable Care Act, we must not forget that it is people and their lives who should be at the center of our focus. If protecting life is our highest priority, scaling back on insurance access and coverage for alcohol and drug addiction treatment is not an option, and the status quo is not enough. We need to strengthen and expand care and access to it, which means expanding health insurance coverage for addiction treatment and avoiding changes that might compromise that national priority. The fact that addiction treatment and care also saves money over time makes prioritizing it an even more essential component of any strategy to enhance our health systems. Passage of legislation such as the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act in 2008, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act in 2016 and the 21st Century CURES Act in 2016 has demonstrated the bipartisan support for addressing the addiction crisis. Those laws, together with other health care reforms, have established a new framework that, for the first time in our nation’s history, aims to address mental health and substance use disorders on par with physical illnesses. We have begun a historic shift to addressing the whole health of our citizens, and this new paradigm must be continued, strengthened and expanded. At the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, which has been helping people overcome alcohol and drug addiction since 1949 and now has 17 sites around the country, we have seen tremendous increases in health insurance utilization, which means more families are able to access the care they need. It’s too often the case, however, that patients’ care is interrupted early due to insurance coverage limitations. And sometimes these patients are unable to re-engage in care when their symptoms return. That’s why we will continue to vigorously advocate for strong enforcement of the parity law. We believe any reforms to the state and federal health care policy landscape should expand the ability of all Americans to access appropriate addiction treatment through their private or public health insurance plans. Any other course will undoubtedly result in additional sickness, death, broken families, emergency room visits, hospital costs, criminal justice costs and child welfare costs. We recognize the complex challenge policymakers face in pursuing both health care accessibility and health insurance affordability, and believe that any strategy to enhance America’s health systems clearly must prioritize coverage for addiction care. As proposals are weighed and tough choices made in state capitals and Washington, we urge our elected officials to consider the pressing need and moral imperative to strengthen and expand life-saving coverage for addiction to alcohol and other drugs—and the economic opportunity in doing so. Addiction is a bipartisan illness that demands a bipartisan solution, and we have been making bipartisan progress. We can and must continue to do so. What Is Parity? The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) is a federal law that generally prevents group health plans and health insurance issuers that provide mental health or substance use disorder benefits from imposing less favorable benefit limitations on those benefits than on medical/surgical benefits. Understand your parity rights, and use tools to help you access care and work with your insurance company and doctor/provider.