Under the Affordable Care Act, many individuals who need mental health coverage can get the help they need through these government health care programs.

Need rehab, but worried about being able to pay for it?

In the past, it was difficult to get help with recovery through government insurance. In fact, in 2011, only 10.5 percent of adults over age 25 who needed substance abuse treatment had health insurance. And of those insured, only a fraction had coverage for the treatment they needed.

But today, both Medicare and Medicaid will help cover health care for substance abuse.

Under the Affordable Care Act, many individuals who need mental health coverage can get the help they need through these government health care programs.

Medicare provides coverage primarily for individuals aged 65 and older while Medicaid serves to help individuals and families who cannot pay for health costs on their own.

When comparing Medicare vs. Medicaid coverage, it’s important to know that they overlap in some areas, but ultimately function very differently. Here’s what you need to know.


Medicare is governed by the federal government. When it comes to substance abuse recovery services, there are different types of benefits that you may be able to use.

Part A: Inpatient

Part A of Medicare helps cover drug or alcohol rehab treatment if you need to stay as a hospital inpatient. This includes your room and meals.

For Medicare, hospital services are measured in benefit periods. Each benefit period begins when you’re admitted to the hospital as an inpatient. It ends after you’ve been outside of hospital care for 60 days. That way, if you need to return to the hospital multiple times in a close time period, you won’t need to pay a new deductible (the amount you pay on your own before Medicare kicks in).

If you’re at a general hospital, there’s no limit to your number of benefit periods. However, at a psychiatric hospital, Medicare will only cover 190 days as an inpatient for your lifetime.

Part B: Outpatient

Under Medicare Part B, you’ll have health care as an outpatient, provided by a hospital. This can also include visits with your psychologist or clinical social worker, lab tests, and even partial hospitalization services in some circumstances.

Your deductible will vary between 20-40% of the amount, as long as the amount is approved by Medicare.

Part D: Medication

Part D can help cover prescription drugs needed to treat mental health conditions, such as Methadone and anti-seizure medications.

Structured Assessment and Brief Intervention (SBIRT)

Medicare also offers a different approach for individuals who are facing substance abuse but don’t have a severe diagnosis. SBIRT is an early intervention for those who show signs of drug abuse or dependency. It serves to both assess the severity of the addiction and refer the individual to the appropriate level of care.

Medicare Eligibility

Many people are automatically enrolled in Parts A and B of Medicare when they turn 65. If you don’t receive this automatically, you’ll likely need to enroll on your own. You can do that at Medicare.gov.

To receive coverage for prescription drugs, you’ll need to enroll in Part D separately. You’ll want to do this when you’re first eligible, or else you might need to pay a late enrollment penalty. Learn more about enrolling in Part D here.

Even when enrolled in Parts A, B, and D, there will be costs you’ll need to pay on your own that are separate from the deductible. For example, Medicare does not cover transportation to and from any health care appointments, social support groups (these are different from group therapy), or job training that’s separate from your mental health treatment.


Medicaid is a program that is governed by the state, and therefore, coverage varies depending on which you state you live. It’s designed for individuals with limited income who also are any of these:

  • A child under 19
  • Pregnant
  • Living with a disability
  • A parent or adult caring for a child
  • An adult without dependent children (in some states)
  • An eligible immigrant

To learn more about Medicaid eligibility, visit the Medicaid page at Healthcare.gov.

What Medicaid Covers

The benefits Medicaid provides vary by state. However, all plans must include inpatient and outpatient hospital services. This might also mean it will give coverage for intervention, long-term or short-term rehab, and family counseling. However, some states may not offer coverage for prescription drugs or psychiatric services for those under age 21.

For information on the coverage your state offers, you’ll want to contact your state Medicaid agency. See Benefits.gov for program information for your area.

Spend Down Process

Do you earn too much to qualify for Medicaid? You might still be eligible under the “spend down” rules. This allows you to subtract your medical expenses from your income and use the final amount to determine eligibility. This will make you eligible as a “medically needy” individual.

Spending down is not available in every state, and it comes with additional restrictions that determine eligibility. The best way to find out the specifics is to call the Medicaid program for your state.

Dual Eligibles

In some circumstances, you might be eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. Individuals in this category are referred to as “dual eligibles.” With coverage from both of these sources, it’s likely that the majority of the health care costs you’ll encounter while seeking substance abuse treatment will be covered.

Are You Ready to Begin Your Journey to Recovery?

You don’t have to figure it all out on your own. Our specialists are standing by to help you sort through the confusing details.

At The Recovery Village, we help our patients through a full spectrum of care. That means you’ll work with a team from day one of planning your detox through the day you no longer need our help. And to make it even easier, we accept most major forms of insurance. Contact our Admissions team to learn how we can help.


Medicare Coverage of Mental Health and S[…]ance Abuse Services.” Center for Medicare Advocacy. Accessed July 23, 2019.

Treatment for Alcoholism and Substance Use Disorder.” Medicare Interactive. Accessed July 23, 2019.

“How do I get Parts A & Part B?” Medicare.gov. Accessed July 23, 2019.

Drug coverage (Part D).” Medicare.gov. Accessed July 23, 2019.

Medicaid & CHIP Coverage.” HealthCare.gov. Accessed July 23, 2019.

Healthcare and Medical Assistance.” Benefits.gov. Accessed July 23, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.