Imagine if Medicare covered treatments for stage 1 or stage 4 cancers, but nothing in between. Absurd, right? Yet that is how Medicare approaches treatment for substance use disorders for its 64 million beneficiaries. This federal health insurance program currently pays for only the least intensive level and most intensive level of substance use care, denying millions of people access to other forms of evidence-based and lifesaving treatments, such as intensive outpatient and residential treatment.
This policy makes no sense, especially amid the escalating overdose crisis, which has a disproportionately deadly effect on older Black people. Substance use disorders do not disappear when people turn 65, nor are they any less of a threat to younger people with disabilities, who are also covered by Medicare. Cont.