Shaheen & Bipartisan Group of Senators Spearhead Bill to Bring More Alcohol and Drug Counselors to Communities

October 07, 2019

**Senators’ Bipartisan Bill will Increase Access to Treatment by Allowing Licensed Addiction Counselors (LACs) to be Reimbursed by Medicare**

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jon Tester (D-MT), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) recently introduced legislation to provide better access to treatment for substance use disorders by recognizing licensed addiction counselors (LACs) under Medicare.

The Senators’ Addiction Treatment Access Act would allow health care facilities to bill Medicare for LAC services. LACs are not currently recognized as providers by Medicare, which prevents them from receiving reimbursement and, in turn, hinders the ability of health centers to hire more providers since reliable and adequate reimbursement is critical to informing the size of the workforce.   

“Affordable access to the full scope of health care services is paramount in our strategy to turn the tide of this epidemic by helping those struggling with substance use disorder find the path to long-term recovery. Counselors play a critical role in delivering that urgently needed care and support,” said Senator Shaheen. “By allowing licensed drug and alcohol counselors to be reimbursed by Medicare, the Addiction Treatment Access Act will increase access to treatment and reduce costs for individuals, helping to ensure that those who need help will be able to receive it.”  

The self-reported rates of alcohol and illicit drug use in all the Senators’ home states (New Hampshire, Montana and Alaska) are higher than national averages. The Senators’ bill aims to bring more trained professionals into health care facilities across the country that are equipped to treat those with substance use disorders. 

“NAADAC is pleased to support the introduction of the Addiction Treatment Access Act (S. 2412) and appreciates Senators Tester (D-MT), Sullivan (R-AK), Shaheen (D-NH), and Murkowski’s (R-AK) leadership on this critical SUD treatment issue,” said Cynthia Moreno Tuohy, Executive Director of NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals. “Recognizing the education, training, and competencies of Addiction Counselors under Medicare Part B represents a critical point of access to services for so many in need. NAADAC is thrilled to support the bill and its goal of helping Americans with substance use disorders find treatment.”

Senator Shaheen has fought to ensure that Granite State communities have the resources they need to battle the substance use disorder epidemic. Shaheen helped negotiate the bipartisan agreement in 2018 that outlined the two years of opioid response spending – totaling $6 billion to respond to the opioid crisis. This included the set-aside funding for states with the highest mortality rates, like New Hampshire. This critical additional funding, which the Senator helped broker, has been included by Congress over the last two fiscal years. As a result of her efforts, New Hampshire received a more than ten-fold increase in opioid treatment funding through the State Opioid Response (SOR) grant program. Shaheen has also recently unveiled sweeping new substance use disorder legislation, the Turn the Tide Act, to help tackle the substance use epidemic and provide resources for Granite Staters struggling with substance misuse. The Turn the Tide Act provides $63 billion in funding over ten years to deliver flexible treatment funding to providers, establish proven prevention programs and address the substantial workforce challenges in the treatment field.