What the AHCA Means for Addiction Treatment

By Joseph M. 07/06/17

The AHCA would take health care away from people in need so the rich can save millions of dollars.

Protesters holding signs in favor of the affordable care act

It is February 2012; I purposefully overdosed myself in hopes of ending the pain I felt. I was 21, alone near Detroit, and a recovering heroin addict who just relapsed. Between 2012 and 2016, I overdosed two more times, suffered a grand mal seizure from benzodiazepine withdrawal, and ran through a litany of treatments.  

My suicide attempt put me in the ICU for a week and then I spent another 72 hours in the psych ward. I had no insurance coverage because I no longer qualified as a dependent on my mom’s plan, could not afford insurance on the open market, and was denied by Medicaid. I accumulated thousands of dollars in medical debt from that one incident. Years, later, thanks to the passing of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) I was finally able to get insurance and then subsequently, the treatment that has been most effective: medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

My recovery process from heroin includes taking Suboxone. If I did not have Medicaid, my prescriptions would cost $400-500 a month! Methadone is a little cheaper. Researching the American Health Care Act (AHCA) I learned just what these changes in health care will mean for addicts seeking addiction treatment. 

First, the AHCA would scale back the ACA Medicaid expansion and make it more difficult to qualify. USA Today states that of all funding for mental health services, 25% comes from Medicaid, and 21% for addiction.

Second, it would allow insurers to opt out of providing addiction treatment and services. Per Dr. Yngvild Olsen of the Coalition to Stop Opioid Overdose, the cost for MAT subscriptions would increase, becoming too expensive for many low-income people in need. The bill earmarks $15 billion for mental health, addiction, and maternity care, and another $8 billion to reduce premiums and costs for pre-existing conditions. That is nothing compared to the $442 billion in extra costs to the health care system from addiction in 2015.

Third, if you have previously received services or treatment for addiction, it would now be considered a pre-existing condition, and disqualify those from insurance coverage. I, for example, would not be able to receive coverage.

The current opioid epidemic is killing hundreds of people each day, and yet we have our elected officials drafting a bill that would affect every American, that would push addiction treatment back at least 10 years. From the different articles I have read, the AHCA would save the rich millions of dollars at the expense of everyone else.

If you want to voice your concerns, contact your state senator immediately.

God Bless. Thank you for reading.

Joseph M. is an American writer. You can visit his blog to read more about his struggles with addiction or find him on Twitter @Dr_addiction


1. Firger, Jessica. "How Would the American Health Care Act Affect the Opioid Crisis? Hint: It's Not Good." Newsweek. N.p., 11 May 2017. Web. 26 June 2017.

2. Murthy, Vivek. "GOP Bill Is Disaster for Opioid Crisis: Guestview." Pensacola News Journal. Pensacola, 23 June 2017. Web. 26 June 2017.

3. Frank, Richard G. "GOP Health Plan Will Make Opioid Epidemic and Mental Health Crises Worse." The Hill. N.p., 3 June 2017. Web. 26 June 2017.

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