Medicaid decision allows more beds for substance abuse treatment

Photo by Aaron Bolton/KBBI

Medicaid has an old rule that says it won’t pay for substance abuse treatment if a facility has more than 16 beds. Now, as it faces an opioid epidemic, Alaska can ignore that restriction.

Gov. Bill Walker said the good news came Wednesday in a call from the White House: The federal agency in charge of Medicaid has granted the State of Alaska’s request for a waiver.

The state said the waiver makes an additional 66 treatment beds available for Medicaid patients struggling with drug addiction. The 16-bed limit came in the original Medicaid law in 1965. It was designed to ensure that states remained responsible for funding psychiatric hospitals.

Alaska’s new waiver also expands options for community-based treatment and for medication-assisted treatment.


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Liz Ruskin covers Alaska issues in Washington as the network's D.C. correspondent. She was born in Anchorage and is a West High grad. She has degrees from the University of Washington and the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia. She previously worked at the Homer News, the Anchorage Daily News and the Washington bureau of McClatchy Newspapers. She also freelanced for several years from the U.K. and Japan, in print and radio. Liz has been APRN’s Washington, D.C. correspondent since October 2013. She's @lruskin on Twitter. She welcomes your news tips at lruskin (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  | About Liz