How 63,000 PA’ians Will Lose Access to Drug and Alcohol Treatment if ACA is Repealed

By: Sarah Galbally, Secretary of Policy and Planning

January 24, 2017

In the first year of Pennsylvania’s Medicaid expansion, almost 63,000 newly eligible Medicaid enrollees accessed drug and alcohol treatment. This coverage is essential in battling the opioid and heroin public health crisis that took over 3,500 lives in Pennsylvania in 2015.

If the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is repealed, all of these people could lose access to treatment. Let’s explain how that would happen.

A person who is receiving treatment for a substance use disorder could be seeing a number of doctors to treat their illness. For example, they could be seeing a drug and alcohol provider who would provide evidence-based treatment which would include recovery supports, cognitive behavioral therapy, drug and alcohol counseling, rehabilitation services, and detoxification.

The patient may also be seeing a mental health provider who would provide counseling or talking therapies to address underlying issues such as anxiety, severe depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.

The patient may also be taking medications such as methadone and buprenorphine to help with their treatment.

The costs of seeing doctors and paying for medication for substance use disorder could be thousands of dollars a month without insurance. A single person who received substance use disorder treatment through Pennsylvania’s Medicaid expansion would make no more than $16,394 a year or no more than $33,534 for a family of four.

If the ACA is repealed and not immediately replaced, tens of thousands of people who are currently receiving treatment for a substance use disorder would lose insurance coverage and no longer be able to afford their treatment.

That’s why Governor Wolf is urging Congress to take a hard look at the real and immediate effects that the people of Pennsylvania will feel if the ACA is repealed. The Governor will continue to fight to ensure that there are insurance options that are affordable, easy to understand, responsive to needs, and available immediately – with no lapse in coverage.


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