National Healthcare Reform

The passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 represented a huge victory in our advocacy efforts, with a ground-breaking expansion of addiction and mental health coverage of prevention, treatment and recovery.

Now, LAC's efforts are focused on strong implementation of the new law, and the critical need to protect and expand funding for substance use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery services in a tough budgetary environment.

Expansion of Coverage

The Affordable Care Act, passed in March 2010:
  • Includes substance use disorder and mental health (SUD/MH) services as required benefits in the basic benefit package for individual and small business health plans.
  • Requires that all plans in the health insurance exchange comply with the Wellstone/Domenici Parity Act in providing SUD/MH benefits in the same way as all other covered medical and surgical benefits.
  • Expands Medicaid eligibility for all Americans up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level and require newly eligible parents and childless adults receive coverage that includes SUD/MH services provided at parity.
  • Includes SUD and MH prevention strategies and efforts in the bill’s chronic disease initiatives.
  • Includes the capacity of the mental and behavioral health workforce as high-priority topics in the bill’s National Workforce Strategy section.
  • Includes insurance reforms and consumer protections critical for individuals seeking or in recovery, including prohibiting insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, charging higher premiums based on health status, and placing annual or lifetime caps on insurance coverage.
These reforms represent significant progress as we continue to advocate for the expansion and improvement of our nation’s health responses to alcohol and drug addiction, including prevention, treatment, recovery, and research.

Click here for Coalition for Whole Health documents from the legislative process.



Sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and its Partners for Recovery Initiative.

  • The Affordable Care Act and Prevention (PDF and video): Intended for consumers, providers and state officials, this webinar provides basic information about the prevention provisions and activities included in the Affordable Care Act (June 2011).
  • How to Comment on Regulations (PDF and video): Provides guidance for consumers and members of the recovery community who would like to provide comments on proposed regulations governing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Includes discussion of proper procedure and best practice (May 2011).
  • Health Homes and Accountable Care Organizations (PDF and video): Provides an overview of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act pertaining to the definition, development of, and requirements for Health Homes and Accountable Care Organizations (April 2011).
  • What's Happening in 2011? (PDF): Highlights important provisions of the Affordable Care Act that are being implemented or are planned for implementation in 2011 (March 2011).
  • Parity 201 (PDF): Includes a detailed discussion about implementation for the new parity law. It features details on state-level implementation efforts, interplay between the federal parity law and state parity law, and anticipated additional pieces of regulatory guidance (March 2011).
  • Parity 101 (PDF): Provides an overview of the Federal Wellstone/Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, including the provisions of the law and the recently released Interim Final Rule (Feb. 2011).

Coalition for Whole Health

In June 2010, the Coalition for Whole Health and the Whole Health Campaign -- two groups originally formed to advocate for strong mental health and substance use disorder coverage in the healthcare reform legislation -- unanimously agreed to merge under the Coalition for Whole Health name. Now, the coalition is jointly led by LAC's Paul Samuels and Ron Manderscheid of the National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors.

This new group gives the mental health and addiction fields the strongest possible advocacy to maximize inclusion and coverage of mental health and substance use disorder prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and recovery in the implementation of health care reform.

Please visit our website to see all our activities.

National Advocacy Campaign

The National Advocacy Campaign, our joint initiative with the State Associations of Addiction Services (SAAS), works toward policies that will dramatically alter the national landscape so that fewer people suffer from alcohol and drug problems, the addicted receive the care they need, and people in recovery can live healthy and productive lives.

Our recent newsletters:

  • February/March 2012: Coalition for Whole Health Comments on Recent Essential Health Benefits Bulletin; Updated Recommendations on Necessary MH/SUD Services for EHB packages; New Resources in SAAS’ Policy and Advocacy Toolkit; Victory in FY 2012 Budget, With FY 2013 Process Gearing Up; Work to Eliminate Legal and Policy Barriers for People in Recovery; Fighting Proposals to Drug Test Unemployment Insurance Beneficiaries; LAC and SAAS, Around the Nation; Coming Soon.
  • October/November 2011: Essential Health Benefit Package Updates; Coalition for Whole Health Website, Now Live; Recommendations and Toolkits on ACA Implementation; Looking Ahead.
  • August/September 2011: Essential Health Benefit Recommendations; IOM Report Includes LAC Director’s Testimony; Comments, Toolkits and Conferences: Implementing the ACA; Outreach, Ongoing.
  • June/July 2011: Multifaceted Work on ACA Implementation; Educating the Field; Action Alert: Second Chance Act Reauthorization; and LAC and SAAS vs. Barriers to Reentry.
  • May 2011: Thanks to Huge Field Push, SAMHSA Avoids Big Cuts in FY 2011; Advocating for the Strongest Possible Funding in FY 2012; ACA Implementation for People with SUD and MH Service Needs; and More Webinars from SAMHSA and LAC.
For earlier updates, see our newsletter archive.

Join the Campaign!

These advocacy efforts are just the beginning. As a friend of the substance use disorder field and as someone who believes in the power of advocacy and the reality of recovery, we know that you will find the National Advocacy Campaign for Smarter and More Effective Drug and Alcohol Policies as exciting as we do. In order to make the work of the campaign possible, please consider joining the effort to change alcohol and drug policies. Become a member by making a secure online contribution today (select "National Advocacy Campaign" from the drop-down box). Thank you for your support!


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