McConnell’s Draft of Healthcare Bill Confirms Dramatic Rollback of Opioid Treatment Access for Millions of People

Press Release June 21, 2017
Media Contact

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

A discussion draft of healthcare legislation released this morning confirms plans by Senate Republican leadership to pursue 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. The draft also proposes adding $2 billion in new opioid funding in an attempt to mitigate concerns about millions of people losing treatment and mental health coverage.

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. Advocates also emphasized that a separate opioid fund, as proposed in this discussion draft, is no substitute for keeping the Medicaid expansion in place.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he still plans to push for a floor vote on healthcare as early as next week despite these and other concerns.

“McConnell is rushing a healthcare bill to the Senate floor that will threaten millions of lives by heartlessly cutting life-saving opioid treatment,” said Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs with the Drug Policy Alliance. “We know that yanking away healthcare from people who struggle with addiction dramatically increases relapse and overdose rates. We know that any rollback of the Medicaid expansion will profoundly exacerbate the opioid crisis.”

Senate Republican leadership plans to bring healthcare legislation to the Senate floor next week 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.

“This proposal for new opioid funding is not a substitute for Medicaid expansion,” added Smith. “Senators shouldn’t be fooled into thinking this can make up for millions of people losing access to reliable, affordable and evidence-based treatment and mental health services.”

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

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