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Substance Abuse Treatment for the Uninsured Worker

Posted in Alcoholism Treatment

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) provides much-needed information about substance abuse treatment and the role of health insurance in ensuring that those needing treatment are receiving it.

The primary source for healthcare coverage in the United States is employer-sponsored insurance for those under the age of 65. However, many low-wage jobs do not include healthcare coverage, or because of escalating premiums and deductibles, employees are opting out of employer-sponsored healthcare coverage.

To establish which persons are uninsured, employed, and in need of substance abuse treatment, the NSDUH asks a battery of questions relate

d to those three areas. To determine employment, the NSDUH considers respondents who have worked 35 hours per week on a regular basis as full-time employees.

The NSDUH classified respondents needing substance abuse treatment as those who met the criteria for dependence or abuse, or if they received substance abuse treatment at a specialty facility within the last year.

The survey reported that more than 18.4 million full-time employees between the ages of 18 and 64 had no health insurance coverage, representing over half (54.5 percent) of uninsured adults under the age of 65. Lack of health insurance was more common among males, among younger adults and among Hispanics than other racial/ethnic categories.

There were also associations found with income and education. Full-time workers with the least education and income were the most likely to be without health insurance.

An estimated 16.3 percent of full-time uninsured workers were in need of treatment for alcohol or illicit drug use in the past year. 13.3 percent needed alcohol treatment, 5.6 percent needed illicit drug use treatment, and 2.7 percent were in need of combined alcohol and illicit drug use treatment.

Of the 3 million uninsured full-time workers who needed substance abuse treatment, about 12.6 percent actually received treatment at a specialty facility. 87.4 percent needed but did not receive treatment. 6.6 percent recognized a need for treatment, while 80.8 percent did not recognize a need for treatment.

Uninsured full-time working males were more likely than their female counterparts to have received treatment at a specialty facility.

The perception of the American public is that most of the uninsured are under-employed workers or unemployed, but this study reveals that over half of the uninsured are full-time employees. The information provided by the NSDUH highlights the need for substance abuse treatment among full-time uninsured workers.