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According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, it is estimated that 2.5 million senior citizens have alcohol or drug abuse issues. Approximately 14 percent of admissions to emergency rooms involving senior citizens are due to drug or alcohol issues, and nearly half of nursing home residents have a drug or alcohol problem.
The most common drug of abuse among the elderly is alcohol followed by prescription medications, particularly benzodiazepines and pain medications. Overall, alcohol and drug abuse in elderly individuals is often underdiagnosed. As a result, more resources should be allocated to research and treatment of individuals over the age of 65 who have drug or alcohol abuse issues.
Even though as a group individuals over the age of 65 make up less than 15 percent of the population, they account for nearly 30 percent of all prescriptions for medications that are written in the United States. Individuals over 65 years old have lower rates of substance use disorders than most other age groups; however, they do develop substance use disorders and require intensive and targeted treatment for these conditions.
Elderly individuals who have substance use disorders may have had substance abuse issues for years or have developed issues with substance abuse as a result of complications and stresses associated with getting older.
Some of the driving issues that can contribute to substance abuse problems in the elderly include:
Because the majority of these individuals are on fixed incomes, it is often important that they are able to rely on insurance and insurance supplements to assist them.
The American Association of Retired Persons (now AARP, Inc.) was founded in 1958 with a mission to enhance the quality of life for individuals as they age. AARP advocates for positive social change for elderly individuals through its major organization and several different affiliated organizations.
AARP has a vast membership and generates its own revenues via membership plans, supplementary insurance plans, and advertisements placed in its publications. AARP is also an extremely powerful lobby group.
Insurance programs offered through AARP fall under the sub-organization title “AARP insurance plans.” AARP does not offer its own healthcare plan, but members can get discounts as part of AARP.
With respect to health insurance, AARP offers access to supplemental insurance for Medicare and resources to help individuals who have Medicare.
Medicare is a federally funded government insurance program that provides insurance coverage for people who are over the age of 65 or who have specific types of disabilities. Individuals pay monthly premiums that are based on their income level.
AARP provides its members with numerous resources regarding Medicare. In addition, AARP offers access to a Medicare Advantage Program, which qualifies under Medicare Part C. AARP labels this program the AARP Medicare Complete Plan, and it is administered by United Healthcare. This supplemental program can pick up part of the costs Medicare will not cover.
These supplemental programs consist of the following:
United Healthcare provides coverage for a variety of rehab services.
Treatment is only approved if it is deemed as medically necessary. Medicare has its own specifications when determining which treatments for what conditions are justified as medically necessary.
For example, Medicare considers the use of methadone as a treatment for pain a covered treatment, but the use of methadone to treat substance abuse may not be covered under Part D; however, it may be covered under part A when a person is in an inpatient withdrawal management program.
In addition, as AARP offers Medicare supplemental insurance to its members, it is important for individuals with Medicare and AARP supplemental insurance to ensure that a treatment facility accepts Medicare. The standards used by Medicare to judge medical necessity are typically pretty inflexible; however, medical necessity is determined on a case-by-case basis. Individuals who have physician referrals for rehab are more likely to get approval than individuals who have a therapist or social worker make such referrals.
Typically, Medicare services and coverage need to be confirmed before an individual can start treatment at a specific facility. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a treatment provider locator that individuals can use to find specific substance use disorder treatment facilities in their area that accept specific types of insurance. This treatment locator tool can be used to find facilities near the individual that accept Medicare and the Medicare supplemental insurance that is offered through AARP.