Alcohol and Drug Addiction Parity

Parity Resources

Addiction Parity means making insurance coverage for alcohol and drug addiction treatment equal with coverage for other chronic disorders. It is a key reform that allows alcohol and drug addiction to be treated as the disease it is.

Currently, millions of people in the United States find that their health plans place strict limits on both inpatient and outpatient coverage for addiction treatment services. Yet, alcohol and drug addiction remains an enormous public health problem. Nearly half of all Americans report knowing someone with an addiction problem. (1) As many as twenty million Americans each year experience alcohol or drug addiction. (2)

ADDICTION PARITY: It Makes Treatment More Accessible and Affordable

The millions of people in recovery from addiction are living proof that treatment works. Yet less than half the people who need treatment can get it, and only 20% of adolescents can obtain treatment. (3) Addiction parity will allow more people to get treatment when they need it.

ADDICTION PARITY: It's Cost Effective

Untreated alcohol and drug addiction costs taxpayers and businesses 276 billion dollars per year in lost earnings, new prisons and accidents, and unnecessary health care. (4) On the other hand, economic data shows that every dollar spent on alcohol and drug treatment saves seven dollars in medical and other social costs. (5)

Adding full and equal coverage for alcohol and drug addiction only increases premiums by 0.2 percent, or about $1 per month for most families. (6) It would allow many more people to access treatment, reducing costs to taxpayers and businesses.

A RAND study found that addiction treatment services could be made available to employees for $5.11, or 43 cents per month. (7) Chevron reports that it saves $10 for every dollar spent on coverage for addiction services. (8)


(1) Hazelden National Overnight Poll. Center City, MN: The Hazelden Foundation. February 1999.

(2) U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, A National Report: Drugs, Crime and Justice System, 1992.

(3) National Coalition of State Alcohol and Drug Treatment and Prevention Associations fact sheet. New York: Legal Action Center, 1998.

(4) The Economic Costs of Alcohol and Drug Addiction in the United States -1992. ExecutiveSummary. Bethesda MD: National Institute on Drug Addiction/National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1995.

(5) Gerstein,D.R.,et al. Evaluation Recovery Services: The California Drug and Alcohol Treatment Assessment. General Report. Submitted to the State of California Dept. of Alcohol and Drug Programs. Chicago: National Opinion Research Center, 1994.

(6) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Study, March 1998

(7) The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, May 1999. How Expensive Are Unlimited Substance Abuse Benefits Under Managed Care? By Roland Sturm, Ph.D.

(8) Cummings, C.R. (1996), Testimony before the subcommittee on national security, international affairs and criminal justice of the committee on government reform and oversight of the U.S. House of Representatives