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.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University. He served as a senior policy advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy from 2009 to 2010.