Senate Republicans’ approach to fighting opioid crisis like ‘spitting in the ocean’

Opioid funding for states like ND comes up far short in revised Republican ‘heath care’ bill

(BISMARCK, ND) – Senate Republicans are scrambling to make sweetheart deals and concessions that garner enough support to pass their widely panned, deeply unpopular ‘health care’ bill.

One such concession: Add $4.5 billion per year for 10 years for states like North Dakota that have been impacted by the opioid crisis. But medical professionals, addiction specialists, and even Republican governors say this funding is much-too-little to compensate for the dismantling of Medicaid that would occur if the Republican plan is enacted into law.

According to the New York Times:

“The new money would most likely flow to states in the form of grants over 10 years, averaging out to $4.5 billion per year. With hundreds of people dying every week from overdoses of heroin, fentanyl and opioid painkillers, some specialists say a fixed amount of grant money is simply inadequate compared with the open-ended funding stream that Medicaid provides to treat all who qualify for the coverage.”

According to Politico:

“Addiction experts and others across the political spectrum say that boosting the current bill’s $2 billion for substance abuse services is like applying a Band-Aid to a gunshot wound. Throwing a pile of cash at addiction won’t make it go away, say critics. It’s a complex, lifelong, medical problem that requires regular health care.”

According to Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich:

“That’s like spitting in the ocean.”

Under current law, addiction services are designated “essential benefits,” and therefore must be covered under plans sold on private-market exchanges. Additionally, Medicaid expansion has greatly increased access to addiction treatment for previously underserved populations.     

Both the Senate and House versions of the Republican proposals would effectively end Medicaid expansion and cap Medicaid funding, ripping health coverage away from tens of thousands of North Dakotans and millions of Americans. Additionally, the Republican health care proposals allow states to waive essential health benefits, including addiction services and mental health care for those suffering from addiction.

“As Republicans work to pass a bill that dismantles Medicaid – a program providing treatment for many North Dakotans battling addiction – this concession is an inadequate drop in the bucket,” said Democratic-NPL executive director Robert Haider. “It is a meager attempt to garner ‘Yes’ votes from wavering Senators like John Hoeven who desperately need a reason to justify supporting such a terrible bill. If the goal is truly to improve health care for North Dakotans, the Senate must go back to the drawing board and seek real, bipartisan solutions that build on what works and fix what doesn’t. The Senate and House versions of this bill are simply too flawed to be fixed with a few Band-Aids.”

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