Seeking to garner support for their beleaguered Obamacare repeal bill, in late June Senate Republicans and the White House agreed to add at least $45 billion to their draft to address the opioid crisis.
The additional funding, to be spread out over 10 years, was requested by Republican senators from two states that have been hit hard by the opiate epidemic: Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia.The funding boost could help Senate Republicans in their battle to get to 50 votes on their health care legislation, according to Politico.
The additional funding would be “absolutely critical to my state. We’ve got huge problems,” Capito told the Washington Times.
However, advocates for addiction treatment say the amount proposed is woefully short of what is needed, especially with the Republicans proposing massive cuts to Medicaid funding. Andrew Kessler, principal at Slingshot Solutions, a behavioral health care and policy consultancy firm, says setting aside more funding for addiction treatment while drastically cutting Medicaid would be “a farce.”
“The $45 billion over 10 years doesn’t come close to what we would lose in Medicaid coverage if this bill would go through ‘as-is.’ I’m not alone in saying this; the colleagues I work with share a similar view,” Kessler told The Influence.
Another problem is that separating addiction treatment funding from Medicaid and other sources of health care funding is counterproductive to providing the kind of “fully functional, integrated system” needed to treat mental health and other disorders that frequently cause or contribute to drug addiction, Kessler says.
“Even if Congress wanted to provide hundreds of billions just for opioid abuse, that does a patient absolutely no good if they suffer from co-occurring disorders,” Kessler says.
“If a patient has a problem with opioid abuse and the professionals treating him discover a co-existing mental health problem, or hepatitis C, HIV, or chronic pain, in effect what Congress is saying is, “Here’s money for opioid abuse treatment, but we realize full well there will be a Medicaid shortfall and there won’t be coverage for those other conditions.
“The last thing we want is health care providers having to say, ‘we can treat you for opiate addiction, but we can’t help you with the hepatitis, bipolar disorder or depression.’ If we don’t address those other issues, which, in many cases are what led people down that road – they will just be back through the door in three months. What have we accomplished?”
Republican leaders, having already delayed their Obamacare repeal vote until after the Fourth of July recess, were hoping to reach agreement in principle on the modified bill by the end of this week. After receiving a score from the Congressional Budget Office, which could take up to two weeks, they hope to hold a vote.
As negotiations continue, the dollars allocated for addiction treatment could increase further, Politico reported.
In a statement, Capito said she “will only support a bill that provides access to affordable health care coverage for West Virginians, including those on Medicaid and those struggling with drug addiction.”
Portman said providing more resources to combat the opioid epidemic has been one of his top priorities in working with colleagues on a replacement for the Affordable Care Act. “ Unfortunately, the Senate draft falls short and therefore I cannot support it in its current form.”