GOP bill would devastate efforts to end the opioid epidemic
Congressman Tim Ryan is a Democrat who has been representing Ohio's 13th District since 2002. He is a member of the House Appropriations Committee.
Shawn A. Ryan is the president and CMO of BrightView Addiction Treatment, an assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Cincinnati, president of the Ohio Society of Addiction Medicine and chair of Payer Relations for the American Society of Addiction Medicine.
Of the many emotions evoked by House passage of the American Health Care Act, the Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), sadness and fear were among the most pervasive. While the legislation reduces the benefits and increases the coverage costs for almost every demographic of our country, families and individuals suffering from opioid addiction will be among the hardest hit. In places like Ohio that are being ravaged by addiction, that is unacceptable.
In 2015, 52,000 Americans died from overdoses; that’s 144 a day. The opioid and prescription drug epidemic is clearly a national crisis. Entire communities are collapsing because of a lack of resources to push back against the rising tide.
Last year, Congress took some concrete steps towards fighting back. Last July, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act was signed into law, creating a comprehensive framework to address substance use disorder and key resources for communities. Congress also passed the 21st Century CURES Act, which included $1 billion for states to help with the local response to this ongoing epidemic. While these programs are positive efforts to confront this crisis, the Affordable Care Act has played a central role in getting people the treatment they need.
The Affordable Care Act made it possible for Americans suffering from substance use disorder to get access to quality treatment – many for the first time in their lives. Through the inclusion of substance use disorder treatment as an essential health benefit, the extension of the parity law to the small group and individual market, and the expansion of Medicaid, millions of Americans were able to gain the coverage they desperately needed to treat addiction. The House Republican health care bill, on the other hand, would not only roll back these advancements, but it could rip health coverage away from the 2.8 million Americans still struggling with addiction.
Our country is suffering. We should be moving forward, not backward. We fully recognize that passage of this legislation might make political sense to some, but doing so is leaving behind millions of Americans most in need. This epidemic is costing our nation $700 billion in health, crime and lost productivity, but that is nothing compared to the toll it is taking on our communities. These men and women are not strangers – they are our friends and neighbors, our brothers and sisters. There is a reason over 435 addiction and mental health groups nationwide have spoken out against this House Republican health care bill: it’s because it would leave people in need without coverage or access to care.
This legislation still needs to pass the Senate before it can be signed into law by President Trump. We urge the Senate to do the right thing and toss out this bill. It is dangerous and short-sighted, and it would be devastating for our nation’s struggle to end the opioid and prescription drug epidemic that is ravaging every corner of the United States of America.