McConnell Floats More Opioid Funding in Healthcare Bill

Press Release June 29, 2017
Media Contact

<p>Grant Smith 202-669-6573</p>
<p>Tony Newman 646-335-5384</p>

Reports indicate that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to add $45 billion in new opioid funding to the Senate Republican healthcare bill. Republican Senators – most notably Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) – have pushed for the inclusion of opioid funding in the Senate healthcare bill to mitigate concerns that the proposed rollback of Medicaid expansion would worsen the opioid crisis in their respective states.

McConnell had previously offered $2 billion in new opioid funding in the initial discussion draft of the healthcare bill released last week. Advocates are deeply concerned that McConnell’s negotiation on new opioid funding could convince Senate Republicans to drop reservations about the Medicaid rollback. Advocates say that opioid funding cannot make up for the far-reaching benefits that coverage for healthcare, evidence-based treatment and mental health delivers to people impacted by the opioid crisis.

“Senators should reject the notion that opioid funding in any amount can make up for preserving the delivery of reliable and affordable healthcare and opioid-related care to millions of people impacted by the opioid crisis,” said Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs with the Drug Policy Alliance. “Senators should not be hoodwinked into thinking promises of new opioid funding will mitigate severe harm that the healthcare bill will bring to communities hit hard by the opioid crisis,” said Smith.

The Senate Republican healthcare bill as drafted pursues a dramatic rollback of the Medicaid expansion created by the Affordable Care Act that has extended access to treatment and mental health services to millions of people.  Senate Republican leadership continues to pursue a vote on healthcare legislation even as recent reporting by the New York Times, Washington Post, and Associated Press has underscored the growing urgency of the opioid crisis and the need for greater access to what continues to be scarce and underfunded treatment and other addiction recovery resources.

There is considerable overlap between states that expanded Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act and states that have been hit hard by the opioid crisis – including Ohio and West Virginia. Republican Senators from these and other states have publicly raised concerns about rolling back the Medicaid expansion. Advocates have repeatedly warned that rollbacks of the Medicaid expansion would strip access to opioid treatment and mental health services from millions of people vulnerable to opioid relapse and overdose. McConnell has said he still plans to push for a floor vote despite these and other concerns. 

Today, the Drug Policy Alliance released a new video that attacks the Senate healthcare bill as a threat to healthcare coverage for millions of people who struggle with addiction and efforts to end the opioid crisis. The video urges viewers to call Senators and demand they oppose the healthcare bill pending in the Senate.



A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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