The Department of Defense Does the Right Thing for Addicted Military Personnel

Tri-Care, DOD’s health insurance program, has historically refused to cover opiate substitution therapy (e.g., buprenorphine, methadone) for military personnel and family members who are addicted to pain killers and/or heroin. Harold Pollack and I wrote about this at length in American Prospect earlier this year, noting in particular that these life saving therapies not being covered is a tragedy and injustice at a time when addiction rates are soaring in the military.

Thankfully, DoD has wisely proposed to change Tri-Care’s insurance coverage for drug addiction treatment. This is a credit to the addiction medicine community who advocated from outside government for the change. It is also one of many reasons why elections matter: Obama-appointed officials in DoD, HHS and the White House drug policy office all pushed hard for this reform. As a result, the 9.6 million current and former military personnel and their families who are covered by Tri-Care will finally have access to evidence-based care for opiate addiction.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

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