Senate Republicans Rushing Secret Healthcare Bill That Would Cut Access to Opioid Treatment for Millions

Press Release June 20, 2017
Media Contact

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

Healthcare legislation drafted in secret by a small group of Senate Republicans would strip access to opioid treatment and mental health services from millions of people vulnerable to opioid relapse and overdose. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he intends to reveal a draft of the bill on Thursday. Reports indicate it maintains rollbacks of the Medicaid expansion that extended eligibility and coverage for treatment and other health services to millions of low-income people.

“Mitch McConnell is rushing a healthcare bill to the Senate floor that will threaten millions of lives by heartlessly cutting life-saving opioid treatment. 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. And we know that communities of color, where access to treatment for substance use disorders is already limited, will be hit the hardest,” said Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs with the Drug Policy Alliance.

The Senate Republican leadership plans to bring the 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. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) has led an effort to push for new funding in the healthcare bill for opioid treatment. Advocates warn, however, that emergency funding of this kind is no substitute for keeping the Medicaid expansion in place.

“Emergency opioid funding is no substitute for Medicaid expansion and the delivery of reliable, affordable and evidence-based treatment and mental health services to millions,” added Smith. “Senators should not be fooled into thinking such stopgaps will mitigate the deep cuts to Medicaid and other ACA provisions that expanded access to treatment. States can’t rely on a temporary bucket of funding that could become a bullseye for cuts later.”

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

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