NewsBriefs BUTTONS

Celebrities Testify For Expanding Insurance For Addiction Treatment


March-April 1998

On March 24, celebrities testified for a measure to expand treatment opportunities of addicts ("Ex-astronaut, celebs urge pols to expand treatment for addicts," Boston Herald, March 25, 1998, p. 16; Sharon Schmickle, "How to Improve Standing of Addiction Treatment," Minneapolis Star-Tribune, March 30, 1998).

"It was the most significant challenge of my life," said former Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin. He said it took more courage to undertake his mission to sobriety than his mission to the moon. Aldrin was testifying before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, chaired by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA). Aldrin said, "It took time and it took many exposures" to treatment in order to recover.

Other witnesses testifying included Carroll O'Connor, whose son Hugh O'Connor died in a drug-induced suicide, and Bill Moyers and his son William Cope Moyers, a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. The hearing coincided with the airing of a PBS series on addiction produced by Bill Moyers. To combat the idea of addiction as a moral weakness, not a disease, Cope Moyers told the panel, "We must put an accurate face on addiction." Bill Moyers said, "America needs a new metaphor for the war on drugs." He said that when his son developed an addiction, he did declare a war on him, but sought professional treatment for him.

The witnesses backed legislation (S. 1147/H.R. 2409) sponsored by Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-MN) and Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-MN), a former alcoholic, that would require health insurers to provide the same coverage for substance abuse as they do for other diseases. A similar measure requiring insurance parity for mental illnesses was enacted in 1996. Ramstad said America can not afford to ignore the problem because untreated alcoholics and addicts incur health costs at twice the average rate and add tens of billions of dollars to the costs of crime, accidents and absenteeism at work. The Minnesota-based Hazelden Foundation and the Betty Ford Center of California back the Wellstone-Ramstad measure. "The recovery community in America is getting mobilized nationally for the first time," Ramstad said.

Rep. Jim Ramstad - 103 CHOB, Washington, DC 20515, Tel: (202) 225-2871, Fax: (202) 225-6351, E-mail: <>.