Michigan’s Problem Gamblers Encounter Obstacles in Health Care Access

Individuals grappling with problem gambling face more than just the challenges of their addiction. They confront a system rife with bias, making it significantly harder for them to access necessary treatment compared to those stru lodi777 ggling with other dependencies.

Individuals with Gambling Disorder Navigate Inequities in Health Coverage

At the 16th Annual Michigan Problem Gambling Symposium, held recently, University of Oklahoma Law Professor Stacey A. Tovino shed light on the institutional biases encountered by those with a gambling problem. Tovino highlighted how individuals with gambling disorder are often disadvantaged when seeking healthcare through both public health programs and private insurance plans, reported Play Michigan.

According to Tovino, individuals grappling with gambling disorder are often subjected to disparities in health insurance coverage and policies. These disparities manifest in various forms, including limited coverage, lower spending caps, and stricter requirements for outpatient visits and therapy sessions. Remarkably, these obstacles are not typically encountered by individuals seeking treatment for physical ailments.

Tovino emphasized the disparity in coverage between mental health conditions and gambling disorder, noting that insurance companies frequently provide fewer benefits for the latter. She explained that individuals with gambling disorder may receive significantly fewer covered inpatient days or outpatient visits compared to those with physical health conditions requiring similar therapy.

Medical Insurance Companies Fail to Address Gambling Addiction

Moreover, despite efforts to enhance mental health coverage over the years, including through legislation like the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996 and subsequent amendments, problem gambling remains inadequately addressed. Despite being classified as an impulse control disorder, akin to other recognized dependencies, insurance companies often exclude coverage for gambling addiction.

The expansion of online gambling further exacerbates the issue, with insurance policies increasingly failing to provide coverage for gambling disorder, specifically targeting online gambling addiction.

In Michigan, where the benchmark health plan lacks explicit provisions for gambling disorder treatment, individuals struggling with problem gambling find themselves particularly disadvantaged. Unlike alcohol or substance addiction, gambling disorder is not universally recognized as a disability, further complicating efforts to secure coverage and support.

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Amidst these challenges, Michigan offers various resources for individuals and families affected by problem gambling, including helplines, self-exclusion programs, and support groups like Gamblers Anonymous and Game-Anon.

Last year the Michigan Gaming Control Board(MGCB) announced that it anticipates receiving approximately $51 million in funding for Fiscal Year 2024. This budget allocation is meant to support the MGCB in its efforts to combat illegal gambling, monitor the market, and promote responsible gambling initiatives, including the “Don’t Regret the Bet” campaign.