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Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Insurance Bill Introduced in Congress


September-October 1997

U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-MN) introduced legislation (H.R. 2904) that would guarantee insurance coverage for treatment of alcohol and drug abuse equal to coverage for other medical services. This would benefit the more than ten percent of Americans who suffer from alcohol or drug addiction (Philip Brasher, "Addicts seek more insurance coverage for drug treatment," Houston Chronicle, September 5, 1997, p. 9A).

Many insurance plans have lower annual and lifetime spending limits for these types of coverage. Ramstad, a recovering alcoholic, sees treatment programs as essential to recover from addiction. He estimates that the increased coverage would raise insurance premiums no more than 0.5 percent. The bill does not require employers who currently do not provide any coverage for alcohol and drug abuse treatment to provide such coverage.

Merrill Mathews Jr., Vice President of the National Center for Policy Analysis, a pro-business research group, opposes the legislation saying, "Treatment for drug and alcohol abuse is open to fraud because it is difficult for insurers to tell when someone is well." Supporters argue that the legislation will pay for itself by saving businesses the cost of treating illnesses caused by addiction.

The bill has been referred to the House Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Health and the Environment.

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

National Center for Policy Analysis - 727 15th St., NW, 5th Floor, Washington, DC 20005, Tel: (202) 628-6671, Web: