Further Reading

You’ll be punished for being treated, but only if you get better

Dear Stanton:

I attended an addiction treatment facility and unwisely allowed the treatment to be billed to my insurance. I left treatment after 7 weeks and have remained sober for 90 days plus. I'm 49 years old.

I am starting to apply for private insurance (I've had COBRA which is running out) and I've been turned down once because of my treatment for chemical dependency. I have had no legal difficulties from my drinking and my internist tells me I have no apparent ill health effects.

Do I have any recourse to get the diagnosis from the treatment center removed from my insurance records? Are there any strategies I should be pursuing in order to minimize the damage?


Dear Jim:

One thing I have learned from my legal-clinical work is that going to treatment is always penalized, but only if you get better and want to leave the treatment behind.

You should consult a lawyer familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act (and parallel state legislation) which prevents people with disabilities, including alcoholism, from discrimination. However, since you are seeking a new insurance policy, a private company has discretion in whom it will accept as a client. An attorney will need to advise you on how this balances out.

You can see this from the insurance company's perspective: they expect you'll be in treatment repeatedly. A company can refuse to pay for a pre-existing condition. However, new federal legislation, associated with the dead senator, Paul Wellstone (whose politics in every other regard I agree with), compels insurance companies to cover emotional disorders and substance abuse.