Comprehensive health coverage critical to stem opioid crisis

July 7, 2017: Seventy-two leading organizations and national experts in the field of addiction policy, research and treatment today issued a joint statement opposing the Senate’s healthcare repeal plan, warning that it would undermine efforts to address the opioid crisis and significantly worsen the public heath epidemic. The statement will be delivered to all United States Senators.

Organized by the Legal Action Center, the statement argues that the proposed addition of up to $45 billion dollars to a special opioid fund will not ameliorate the damage that will be caused by the enormous cuts to Medicaid funding and the weakening or removal of consumer protections against insurance discrimination. If enacted, the Senate plan would result in millions of people struggling with addiction losing the healthcare coverage they need to get and stay well.

As noted in the statement “No time-limited infusion of federal dollars for addiction treatment can fill the gaping coverage and financing holes, meet the unmet need for substance use treatment, or prevent the significant disruption in health care delivery that will result under the enactment of the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA).”

A number of key provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) significantly expanded access to addiction coverage and treatment, such as the requirement for Medicaid and commercial insurance to cover substance use disorders as Essential Health Benefits, and at parity with other illnesses; protections for people with pre-existing conditions including substance use disorder; and expanding Medicaid eligibility to cover more people. These are critical elements to ensuring that people with addiction have access to comprehensive healthcare coverage, and they must be retained or strengthened in order to meet the rising need due to the opioid crisis.

Paul Samuels, President/Director of LAC says “The Senate health repeal plan will strip coverage away from millions of Americans struggling with addiction. Emergency funding to address the opioid crisis must be in addition to – not in lieu of – the comprehensive healthcare coverage that people with addiction need. We must change the trajectory of addiction treatment in this country – not go back to the failed system of separate and unequal coverage that contributed to the current crisis.”

Michael Botticelli, who formerly served as Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and is currently the Executive Director of the Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine, echoed this point saying that “No one should be fooled into thinking that a separate, inadequate and time limited infusion for addiction treatment funding can ever replace access to high quality affordable comprehensive health care.  It is almost impossible to describe the devastating impact this bill will mean for every family and community struggling with addiction.”

Other leading experts echoed these statements.

The President of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, Dr. Kelly Clark, noted that “Kicking people off their insurance or allowing “insurance” plans to exclude addiction treatment coverage is clearly the wrong approach when we’re fighting an epidemic, and no amount of targeted grant money can make up for these coverage losses.”

Patty McCarthy Metcalf, Executive Director of Faces and Voices of Recovery, who said “With appropriate treatment and recovery support, people can and do find their path to long-term recovery. However, without insurance coverage, alcohol and other drug related health conditions will go underdiagnosed leading to greater costs for liver disease, heart conditions and much more. Furthermore, the impact on all other parts of society in child welfare, law enforcement, employment and education will escalate.”

Deputy Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, Grant Smith, said “Having access to healthcare is critical to facilitating recovery and reducing overdose risk and other drug-related harms. The Senate healthcare bill would put millions of lives at risk by scaling back the Medicaid expansion and other guarantees of health coverage. Senators must understand that no amount of opioid funding can compensate for the intolerable harm that rolling back healthcare will inflict on millions and efforts to end the opioid crisis.”

Marcia Lee Taylor, Chief Policy Officer at the Partnership for Drug Free Kids says “At a time when overdoses are at epidemic levels and are the leading cause of accidental death in our country, we need to be expanding access to treatment, not putting up additional obstacles. Simply put, the cuts in the BCRA are going to make it more difficult for families to get their loved ones the help they need.”

Mark Parrino, President of the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence notes that “AATOD’s membership is extremely concerned about how any federal funding can be properly assessed since we are still in the grips of an expanding opioid epidemic. We have a limited understanding of how many people need access to care, especially when so many Americans may lose their health insurance, compounding the challenge of accessing desperately needed treatment.”

Ron Manderscheid, Executive Director of the National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors and the National Association for Rural Mental Health, says “The proposed Senate Better Care Reconciliation Act falls dramatically short in addressing the opioid crisis. As a concerned society, we should and can do better.”

The full statement including all current signatories can be found here.

Media contact: Abigail Woodworth
Ph: 212-243-1313 x 136
E: [email protected]

Share this

Need Legal Help?

¿Necesita ayuda en español?

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) and other legal resources.

View Here Ver aquí

Support Us

You can become a partner in the fight against stigma and discrimination and for smart, effective public policies by making a tax-deductible donation.

Lend your support