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Drug and alcohol treatments have the power to change lives for the better, drastically improving the health of the person struggling with addiction. Recovery from addiction is a challenging journey but can result in drastic changes, including better relationships with family and friends, better health, better mental wellbeing, and improved employment prospects.
Knowing the importance of quality, affordable drug and alcohol addiction health services, the Australian Government last year announced wide-ranging changes to our health insurance system1. This includes reforms to the access of drug and alcohol services, as well as mental health treatments.
The Australian Government’s Department of Health has announced that it plans to make it easier for policyholders to access mental health services, and drug and alcohol treatment when they need it.
Typically, waiting periods of two months apply to patients needing in-hospital treatment for drug or alcohol addiction. This meant that people suffering problems with drug or alcohol were unable to access in-hospital treatments when they needed it most.
With the changes, patients will be able to access in-hospital psychiatric care, including alcohol and drug dependency treatment, without serving the two month waiting period. However, if you use this exemption, you’re only able to use it once in the lifetime of the policy.
A waiting period is a measure that protects health insurance customers, and providers, by making patients wait to become eligible for rebates on some treatments2.
Generally, waiting periods ensure that customers can’t make large claims shortly after joining a fund, and then cancel the membership directly afterwards2. Waiting periods for hospital treatments are legislated by the federal Government and are:
Waiting periods begin when you take out a new policy or upgrade your existing policy.
In addition to waiving the standard two month waiting period, the Government has allowed patients needing drug or alcohol treatments to upgrade their level of cover without serving waiting periods3.
This means that if you have a private health insurance policy that doesn’t cover drug and alcohol in-hospital treatment, you can upgrade your policy to access cover for the treatment without serving the two month waiting period.
An additional reform is the removal of limits on the number of mental health sessions or treatments a patient can access. Some health insurance policies placed limits on the number of services it would cover such as day programs, electroconvulsive therapy, and transcranial magnetic stimulation3.
These services may be helpful in the treatment of drug and alcohol problems, and now patients can continue to receive cover should they require multiple treatments.
The changes have already been introduced and became law in April of 2018.
According to Australian Government Department of Health, many insurance policies provide limited cover for these important services, so if you need overnight or multi-day care in a private hospital for drug or alcohol treatment, you may face large out of pocket costs3.
By removing waiting periods, it’ll be easier for anyone needing mental health care to access it when they need it, without struggling with out-of-pocket costs. Additionally, fewer limits will make mental health care more accessible for those who need it3.
According to the National Drug Strategy Household Survey 20164, the consumption of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs is a major cause of preventable disease and illness in Australia.
In addition, it states that pharmaceutical drugs is an increasing public health problem in Australia. Furthermore, users of illicit drugs are increasingly self-reporting psychological distress5.
Each state in Australia offers 24/7 alcohol and drug information services you can call for further assistance6: