How to Pay for Drug or Alcohol Treatment

How to Pay for Drug or Alcohol Treatment

If you are dependent on alcohol or drugs and want to enter treatment, you may be understandably concerned about the cost of such programs. In fact, addiction treatment can be quite costly, depending on the severity and duration of the substance being abused by the person seeking to quit. How can you figure out how to pay for drug and alcohol treatment?

Research Treatment Options

The first step in the process should be to locate the right treatment facility to meet your needs. Whether that is an inpatient hospital or residential treatment center specializing in addiction treatment, or outpatient treatment, determine which treatment facility can best address your particular situation.

The second step is to contact each of the treatment providers on your list and ask a series of questions. You may also wish to visit the ones you’re really interested in to see first hand how they operate, and to get a better sense of the kind of care you will be receiving at the facility. Ask for literature and all costs associated with the treatment, and various treatment options each may offer. Some residential treatment facilities, for example, offer outpatient treatment, aftercare treatment and other services.

When you have your short list, that is the 2 to 3 treatment facilities that have the ideal approach and philosophy to best meet your needs, it’s time for an in-depth discussion of exactly what the costs are. You may find that you’re asked to undergo an initial assessment first, in order for the facility’s professionals to make a determination of the best and personalized program for you. In fact, whichever treatment facility you ultimately choose, no treatment can begin without a comprehensive assessment being completed first. This involves an interview to learn about your background, family history, type of substance and duration of abuse, and other issues important to your treatment. You may need to undergo detoxification in order to be admitted to the treatment program. This will be determined at the time of the assessment. No one can enter treatment without being free of traces of drugs or alcohol in their body.

What Impacts Treatment Costs

Naturally, some treatment for drug and alcohol dependence costs more than others. Residential treatment is more expensive than outpatient treatment. The location of the facility, amenities offered, and staffing also impact the overall treatment costs.

Chronic alcoholism or drug abuse requires longer-term treatment, and that can become very costly – again, depending on the treatment facility chosen.

How Treatment Can Be Paid For

The goal of every treatment center for drug and alcohol abuse is to get the patient to abstain from use, to be able to function again normally and re-enter society, and to stay in recovery – clean and sober. In an ideal world, no treatment facility would turn any client away for lack of ability to pay. But the reality is that not every drug and alcohol treatment center can do this because they have fixed costs. Still, there are various methods that can be used for assisting clients in paying for treatment. Here are some that may or may not be offered:

• Private Insurance – The most commonly used payment for drug and alcohol treatment is through private insurance. Your insurance coverage may pay for some or a great portion of the drug and alcohol treatment program. The websites of some addiction treatment centers may mention specific carriers they work with, particularly if they are a preferred addiction treatment center for national insurance companies such as Blue Cross, Aetna, Cigna and others. Whether or not your private insurance covers any portion of drug and alcohol treatment depends on whether they are ERISA or non-ERISA plans. The Employee Retirement and Income Security Act (ERISA), is a federal law that sets standards for certain health plans offered by employers. If your plan is ERISA, it may or may not cover drug and alcohol treatment, as it is not required to. Non-ERISA plans, and other group health plans, are required to provide at least 4 inpatient detox admissions (of up to 7 days each) in a lifetime, at least 30 days per year (lifetime 90 days) of non-hospital residential treatment, and at least 30 days a year of partial hospitalization or outpatient services.

• Military Insurance – Members of the armed services who need alcohol or substance abuse treatment may have some or most of the costs paid for through their military insurance.

• Medicare, Medicaid and Medical – Many treatment facilities advertise – or will advise you if you ask – that they accept Medicare, Medicaid and Medical. Medicare Part A covers some drug and alcohol treatment received at a hospital (including room, meals, nursing and some other services), while Part B covers some services provided by alcohol and drug professionals (inpatient or outpatient), lab tests, partial hospitalization and outpatient therapies. Be aware that Medicare does not cover the total cost of most treatment and services, and you normally will be required to pay deductibles and co-payments.

• One-Time Pay Assistance – This is a term you’ll find on some treatment center websites or in their literature which basically means that the center will provide some type of financial assistance on a one-time-only basis.

• Scholarships – Several drug and alcohol treatment centers in California offer scholarships to those individuals who cannot afford to pay on their own, or who do not have insurance. In fact, some of these treatment facilities may be required to make a certain number of beds available for scholarship recipients as part of their licensing requirements – depending on what type of license the facility has. If you qualify for a scholarship, it will pay for the entire cost of your treatment. But remember that this is only intended for those individuals who really have no other option.

• Self-Pay Sliding Scale – Another popular payment method for drug and alcohol treatment is one where you pay what you can, according to a sliding scale. This assures that you will get the necessary treatment to kick alcohol and/or drugs, but you will be required to pay what you can.

• Loans – Some facilities may offer loans that you can take out to pay for your treatment. Be sure to find out everything that’s covered in the treatment, and understand exactly what the terms of the loan are. You don’t want any hidden fees or surprises. Ensure that anything that’s a fee-for-service is carefully explained, as this would be in addition to your treatment costs.

• Personal Savings – It may come down to your having to tap into your personal savings, especially if you have a high deductible, no insurance, don’t qualify for scholarships, don’t want to take out a loan, or other reasons. Again, be sure to find out exactly what you’ll be paying for, so that you can reasonably estimate if it will exhaust your savings account and perhaps you should look for alternative payment methods.

• Family Assistance in Paying – Don’t be ashamed or afraid to ask your family for assistance to pay for your drug and alcohol treatment. If you are genuinely committed to quitting the abuse, they may be willing to help you. If they say that it will be a loan, be sure to draw up a loan agreement, and make good on your promise to pay them back. After all, they are giving up a substantial amount of money to help you kick drugs and alcohol. But they do want you to get better. If, however, you have burned your bridges with your family and don’t want to, or feel you can’t approach them for money, you should look for other means to pay for treatment.

• Employer-Sponsored Programs – Find out if your employer has a substance abuse program that you can utilize. This may be a part of your employer-paid insurance coverage or it may be separate. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

• Federal, State, County or Local Assistance – Check with federal, state Department of Health, county or local organizations to see if you qualify for assistance with treatment programs, or can enter treatment at one of their facilities. There may be citizenship, residency and income limits applicable before treatment can be authorized.

Don’t Let Ability To Pay Deter You From Treatment

The best advice anyone can give you is to fully explore all your options to getting treatment to quit drugs and alcohol. Be honest and upfront about your financial and insurance situation and ask for help to get the treatment you need.

If you are uncertain where to begin to find a treatment center or need assistance navigating the treatment available in you area, contact the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Center for Substance Abuse Treatment at (800) 662-HELP (4357). This is a toll-free, 24-hour treatment referral service to help you find a treatment facility near you. You can also check out their facility locator at

Another useful resource for locating treatment centers for drug and alcohol abuse in California is The listings are alphabetical and contain links to various treatment and wellness programs for various types of addictions.

Above all, do get help. Your road to recovery requires that you take this all-important step to enter treatment.

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