By ARMSTRONG RONO
As Kenyans continue to confront unprecedented issues from the widespread prevalence of alcoholism and addiction, and the annual direct and indirect costs these problems create, access to treatment for the same is becoming increasingly important.
Among the most troubling problems facing addicts and their families is lack of insurance.
Access to quality
People suffering from addiction and in need of treatment are not covered for their overall health care by insurance providers, thereby denying patients access to quality care.
The effects of addiction on our social systems has helped to shape the generally held view by insurers that addiction is a social problem, not a health problem. Stigma has allowed insurance companies to discriminate against patients with addiction forcing them to pay for their medical care out of pocket.
The bottom line is addiction is not a morality issue. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing and remitting disease that has profound effects on emotions, behaviour and thoughts.
As an illness, it places a huge burden on health care services. Addiction is a medical condition that deserves the same consideration as other medical conditions that don’t carry the stigma.
There is sufficient financial, legal and moral motivation for insurers to cover addiction costs. Studies have shown how cost effective treatment and prevention services are especially to the staggering costs of untreated addiction.
Everyday day doctors encounter illnesses and injuries that are associated with both the drugs of addiction and the risky behaviours of addicted patients.
They include liver, pancreatic diseases, treatment resistant hypertension, work place and recreational injuries, sleep disorders, family dysfunction and violence.
Ironically, even the many accidents on Uhuru Highway on Fridays are caused by drunken motorists, yet insurance companies proceed to pay.
Treatment of addiction works as well as, or better than most other therapies for chronic, incurable diseases.
Denying coverage of addiction treatments makes little financial sense. In 1999, the estimated medical expenditure in the US to treat outcomes associated with addiction was a whopping $300 billion. Providing treatment nationally would significantly cut health costs.
Treatment will see reduction in crime, health during and after treatment will improve, with corresponding reductions in use of health services. It will reduce the number of substance abusers as well as prevalence of illnesses that are related to drug abuse.