Last updated on: 10/24/2012 | Author:

Does Obamacare Require Coverage for Substance Abuse? – YES

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Section 1302, page 45, “Essential Health Benefits Requirements,” signed into law on Mar. 23, 2010, available at the Library of Congress website, states:


(1) IN GENERAL.—Subject to paragraph (2), the Secretary shall define the essential health benefits, except that such benefits shall include at least the following general categories and the items and services covered within the categories…

(E) Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment.”

Mar. 23, 2010 - Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (HR 3590)

PRO (yes)


The Arapahoe House, a non-medical detoxification facility, stated in its July 5, 2012 post “What Healthcare Reform and the Affordable Care Act Means for Arapahoe House, Colorado’s Leading Nonprofit Provider of Drug and Alcohol Treatment,” available at its website:

“For the first time in history, the Affordable Care Act ensures that mental health and substance abuse treatment services are required benefits in all basic health insurance packages…

One of the biggest barriers to alcohol and drug treatment is lack of health insurance. With the individual mandate and expansion of Medicaid coverage upheld by the Supreme Court, the Affordable Care Act is a paradigm shift for substance use disorder treatment.”


Deni Carise, PhD, Chief Clinical Officer of Phoenix House, stated in her July 2, 2012 article “Affordable Care Act Upheld: A Big Win for Addiction Treatment,” available at the Huffington Post website:

“[T]he Affordable Care Act will help the addiction and recovery community in several significant ways. In sum, it comes down to one word: choice. Millions of previously uninsured Americans will now have health care coverage.”


The White House stated the following on its webpage “Substance Abuse and the Affordable Care Act,” available at its website (accessed Sep. 6, 2012):

“The ACA includes substance use disorders as one of the ten elements of essential health benefits. This means that all health insurance sold on Health Insurance Exchanges or provided by Medicaid to certain newly eligible adults starting in 2014 must include services for substance use disorders.

By including these benefits in health insurance packages, more health care providers can offer and be reimbursed for these services, resulting in more individuals having access to treatment. The specific substance abuse services that will be covered are currently being determined by the Department of Health and Human Services, and will take into account evidence on what services allow individuals to get the treatment they need and help them with recovery.”

CON (no)


[Editor’s Note: Based upon a neutral reading of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and bi-partisan third party analysis, this question seems to have a clear and obvious Pro (yes) answer, and has therefore presented the responses in a single column with no opposing perspective.]