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Amidst Opioid Crisis, State Attorneys General Urge Congress to Continue Funding Drug Treatment Programs

BY FOCUS, a Leonine Business


The attorneys general of 19 states and the District of Columbia announced recently that they have formed a coalition urging the U.S. Congress to include adequate drug treatment funding in any potential legislation seeking to repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The attorneys general argue that during a growing national drug epidemic, any rollbacks of addiction treatment services would be disastrous for the states and their citizens. The coalition is led by Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear and in addition to the District of Columbia includes the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.


A letter released by the attorneys general notes that the plans recently considered by congress would cut funding for drug treatment services by an estimated $5.5 billion, while moving to a proposed “block grant” form of funding Medicaid would put an additional $7.9 billion in addiction treatment funding at risk, representing 25 percent of all addiction treatment funding nationally.


One of the cornerstones of the ACA is its required coverage by all health plans of what are considered 10 essential healthcare benefits. Included among these essential benefits is coverage for addiction treatment services, which are used to provide service to an estimated 2.8 million Americans. The attorneys general argue that this required coverage of addiction treatment services is essential to the states in their fight against the growing drug epidemic.


The move comes as drug overdose deaths have hit an all-time high across the U.S.; data from the National Institutes of Health indicates that in 2015 there were nearly 50,000 deaths resulting from drug overdoses, of which nearly 35,000 were attributable to opioids. This figure represents a nearly 2.2-fold increase over 2002, when there were approximately 23,500 overdose deaths per year. When looking at only deaths attributable to opioids, the figure rises to a 2.8-fold increase, further underscoring the need for continued support for addiction treatment services.


Congressional Republicans are currently considering legislation that would overhaul most of the provisions of the ACA, however the text of this bill has not yet been officially released, nor does it have a number, making it impossible to know what provisions the bill may or may not contain. A vote on the bill is expected sometime during the first week of May, though Republican leaders pulled their previous iteration of the bill, The American Health Care Act, from the floor before a vote after it became apparent that it did not have the support necessary to pass the House. It remains unclear if the bill has the support to pass the House, though many Republicans have come out against any bill that would eliminate the required provision of essential health benefits guaranteed under the ACA. Ohio’s Republican Gov. John Kasich, one of the few Republican governors who have embrace the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid, has also come out against the bill, saying that any plan passed by congress must contain mandated coverage for both addiction treatment and mental health.