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.


Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at

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