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Survey Finds Public Support for Treatment in Health Reform

October 8, 2009
by Daniel Guarnera
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Scottish poet Robert Burns's most quoted line reads,

O would some Power the gift to give us
To see ourselves as others see us!

Advocates on all issues make a similar plea: What does the public already know, or think they know, and how can I tailor my message to them so that it's as effective as possible? In answering these questions, there's no substitute for survey data. Thanks to the Closing the Addiction Treatment Gap initiative, addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery advocates are the beneficiaries of a newly released poll that quantifies public opinion on addiction's place in health reform.

On the whole, the survey's results are extremely encouraging. For example:

  • 77% of Americans support including addiction treatment in health reform.
  • 69% would be willing to pay $2 more per month in premiums to ensure that treatment is accessible and affordable.
  • 88% of people think that treatment is important in helping people with addictions get better, and 76% say that long-term recovery is unlikely without support.
  • 87% of people see treatment as an ongoing process rather than a one-time occurrence.

The study also shows that there is a lack of knowledge in some areas. For example, 27% of people admit that they don't know whether their community offers affordable, accessible treatment services (26% say there are already enough such services where they live). Groups more likely to see a treatment gap include African Americans, people in recovery, people without insurance, and people who have had family members with addictions.

Similarly, two-thirds of Americans with insurance don't know whether their health plan covers addiction treatment. (October 3 was the one-year anniversary of the

Wellstone-Domenici Parity Act being signed into law--it's hoped that regulations will be released some time before Jan. 1, 2010.) Half of people don't think that they or someone in their family could afford treatment if needed.

There seem to be a few takeaways from this

report (produced by Lake Research Partners) that are immediately helpful to advocates. Firstly, we need to shake off any lingering defensiveness when we're talking about the importance of ensuring access to treatment. The public, by large numbers, agrees that addiction is an important issue that needs to be addressed in our health care system.

Secondly, the public agrees that addiction can be treated and managed like other chronic health conditions such as diabetes. Despite any



Daniel Guarnera

Daniel Guarnera is the Director of Government Relations for NAADAC, The Association for...

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