Although not the only thing that keeps people from getting treatment for alcoholism and addiction, cost is the top reason that people who want help cannot get it. Why is the cost so high for something that has such a low rate of success? I have some experience that answers part of the question.
No one seems to be asking this question, and I sometimes think that everyone else just understands why it makes sense, so they don’t ask. However, I cannot stop this question from bouncing around in my head. Why can’t we know ahead of time how much treatment centers charge for a standard stay in their facility. The question applies if we are paying cash directly to the facility or if we are using insurance how much does our insurance provider pay? Why is this a secret?
For cash or self-pay I think I found the answer and it is not a good one. I have helped many people get to treatment from family members to friends, acquaintances, and people I have never met before in my life. From those experiences I learned a great deal about how you go about getting an answer to unfortunately the most important question. How much is it going to cost us? I called a treatment center that will remain unnamed for now as it is full of good people trying to help save lives and they provided excellent care and are not unique in the pricing process I am about to lay out. So I had helped get another person into this facility in the past and was fortunate enough be directly channeled to someone who knew someone who knew someone etc…. and got a very good price. We paid about $15,000 for 30 days full residential treatment with room and board. When I called this time on behalf of the person who was out there suffering, I just went through the phone number on their website and got a random intake specialist in their call center. They told me they had a bed and that a month-long stay would be $30,000. Full residential treatment with room and board. I was confused because this was double the price that was paid by the last person, I had helped just 8 months prior. I had felt something strange around pricing and had my suspicions, so I decided to investigate a little further on how it works. I told the person on the other end of the phone that the person I was helping could not afford that. I was then asked how much money the person had to spend on treatment. Knowing that they could handle $15,000/month from my experience I decided to say $20,000 USD. (by the way before this happened the agent from the treatment center tried to get me to let them speak directly to the person paying (aka inexperienced desperate parent) which I quickly made clear was not happening) When I said $20,000 was the maximum they could afford the phone agent said that they would have to check with their manager. I was surprised that I got no fight for that big of a decrease in price. I received a call back in 30 minutes from the same agent reporting that they would do it for $20,000. Now, one could say that this was a very nice gesture to help someone get to treatment and for some involved it could very well be just that. However, in general as a practice across the industry this process completely lacks transparency and is downright suspicious. What I experienced illustrates that treatment centers have plenty of room to lower their price and I believe that a lot of the decision from speaking with insiders in the industry is connected to bed availability and maximizing revenue. I am very okay with facilities making money, they should, however, why not post your best price on your website and do not make any back room secret negotiations. If they want to lower their price to help someone please do so!!!, but do not do it from an over-inflated price that you would have allowed someone to pay simply because they had the money. My goal is that every treatment facility publishes their best price and are forced to compete with the place down the street for business based on price, not just on lofty claims of success and line after line of special offerings that are presented as the difference maker for your sobriety. On the insurance side, I am still investigating why we can’t know what rates each insurance company has negotiated with the various treatment centers. It will keep everyone honest and give valuable insight to the many inexperienced sufferers and their loved ones about the relationships between treatment centers and insurance companies. This along with the other information already provided about the treatment center can be indispensable when they are trying select a treatment facility. TRANSPARENCY WILL INCREASE ACCESS TO TREATMENT FOR ADDICTION