Friday, March 01, 2013

Medicaid expansion a boon to addiction care

In the fall, the devastation brought by Sandy saw Governor Christie respond in a way that put New Jerseyeans above politics. With his recent decision to expand Medicaid, which is a key part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the governor again showed that his concern for the state’s citizens outweighed political considerations. The Medicaid expansion will mean in the coming years 300,000 more residents of the state will have access to health care. Of these, 44,000 more with an addiction will be able to enter treatment.

The decision the governor came to is not only humane, it is the fiscally responsible one. Advocates for the expansion noted that it will help create jobs in the health care arena. The expansion could also bring an influx of as much as $300,000 million in the coming year.  

More directly, it will benefit the state by getting people the treatment they need before they wind up in the emergency room, for far too long the only place the poor could turn to receive medical attention.

The ACA promotes treatment of addiction, partly through broader screening to detect an alcohol or drug problem. This screening will increase the likelihood of early detection and thereby get patents into treatment sooner, keeping them from suffering any number of the health problems that arise from prolonged drug or alcohol use (kidney or liver failure, hypertension). In addition, the ACA includes addiction as one of 10 categories of care in its Essential Health Benefits package.

It remains to be seen whether the governor will have a backlash from conservatives for his Medicaid decision. Whatever the fallout for his political future, the governor made the proper decision for New Jersey’s population and its economy. 

Daniel J. Meara